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Glimpse into a Whole Other World


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Mature Content: Maybe a little

With: Miriam, Arabella, other saloon folk/customers
Location: Star Dust Saloon
When: Late June, 1876
Time of Day: Early evening

 

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Miriam had finished her day of work at Pettigrew's shop and was, as per usual, heading home to her family who lived in town, it wasn't even a long walk. Her employer had been pleased with her work that afternoon and, in a bit of surprise generosity, allowed her to leave work a half hour early.  So she had a bit more time than usual before she would be expected home by her mother. Her father was probably still working at his business to be, seeing to some of the necessary carpentry. Hopefully by the middle of July his butcher shop would be up and running, at least that was the plan.

 

Miriam normally avoided even walking on the side of the street with the saloon  as that meant walking by it on the boardwalk. She had always been led to believe, even from back in New York City, that such places were dens of iniquity and indeed even dangerous to young ladies such as herself. But she now had met a two women - alright, one teenage girl and one young woman, who were employees at this Star Dust saloon.  Arabella was her age even, Miss Mundee (the so called harlot) only some five or six years older. She had modeled a dress for this saloon entertainer and from the little time she spent and talked with the woman, she seemed.......well, actually very nice. It was a real surprise.

 

Arabella on the other hand was - if you put aside her fairly strange ways - truly a wonderful person, so kind and sweet, full of compliments and supportive of Miriam's modeling ordeal.  They had hit it off immediately and Miriam was positively buoyant about the possibility of now having a bosom friend in this new town. Her family were new and she was, to put it bluntly, lonely for some sort of companionship besides her immediate family. She wasn't a child anymore, she was beginning to do more thinking for herself and wanting to 'stretch her wings' as the saying went.

 

Arabella and Miss Mundee lived in a completely different thoroughly mysterious world so different from her humdrum existence. And neither certainly were the kind of horrid people she had always been told dwelt in such awful places.  So to say she was curious about taking a quick look in the place was an understatement, it was by now practically all she could think about.

 

So this time she deliberately slowly even strolled onto the boardwalk right past the windows and swinging doors of the Stardust. She could hear the sound of mens' voices, laughter, even before she got to the doors it smelled like smoke...tobacco smoke. She had hoped to hear the sound of a piano playing as Arabella told her that's what she did there. But nope, nor any woman singing. Maybe they were just between performances?

 

The young miss came to a halt then at the doors, trying to peer over them and get a better look inside, hoping to luck out and see Arabella herself inside.  But even if she couldn't get that lucky, she would see what all the so called excitement was about. However no sooner did she do that than from behind a grown man wrapped one arm around her and ushered her right on thru the doors!

 

"Excuse me!" she was beyond startled, more like shocked but she was in then. The man grinned down at her, he was a cowpoke, he smelled of cattle and sweat and at first glance he had to be at least twice her age. His grin showed tobacco stained teeth and his cheeks and chin certainly had seen a razor for a few days.

 

"Aww, come now, I could see you were curious so you might as well come on in and get a closer look. I bet yer lookin' for someone to buy you a drink maybe? I'm your man then, honey!," he drawled.

 

"No, no, I was just..." Miriam shook her head but had yet to pull away.

 

"You new here then. Never seen you around before. Kinda young but hey, we can't be picky I reckon," he declared, he still had his arm around her waist with clearly no intention to just simply let her change her mind and leave.

 

"Francine didn't tell you to show up here by any chance?" it was as if he suddenly thought of something.

 

What Miriam did not know (certainly could not be expected to know) was that this Francine he had just mentioned was a local hooker to spent time on occasion inside the Star Dust looking to make her living by offering her 'services' to willing customers. The Star Dust did not have their own prostitutes like some saloons did but the place also did not forbid them as long as they took their trade off the premises and did what was expected of them somewhere else. Francine had a small room where she plied her trade.  So for all the cowboy knew Francine had recruited somebody new?

 

"Francine? No, I don't know who that is, sir," Miriam shook her head, "I need to go now."

 

"Go? You just got here!" the man laughed, even as another man stepped up.

 

"Nice, who you got there, Frank?"

 

 

 

 

 

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“Well them dishes won’t wash ‘emselves, Arabella!” chided Mammy McMahon as the pot girl tried to skitter back out of the kitchen having dumped the latest lot of dirty glasses and the odd plate onto the draining board.

 

“Awwwww!” the girl grumbled “I ain’t bein’ lazy, it’s just it’s getting awful busy out there and Mr. Flandry’ll be wantin’ a hand. If ‘n it gets any more crowded, Mrs Devereau’ll have to come down and do some work!” They both immediately burst out laughing at this joke and Arabella put the soiled cutlery and glass-wear in the big, square porcelain sink to wash it.

 

From the kitchen you got an indistinct but telling indicator of the mood of the crowd in the main saloon: kinda quiet indicated there was maybe an intense poker game in progress for big stakes and everybody was gathered round to watch, you could pick up if there was a sour note in the air and a fight was maybe about to break out, or sometimes a guffaw of hilarity indicated some joke had taken place.

 

The distinctive hubbub from the other room at the moment was hard to pin down, but Arabella always associated it with the sort of sexual tension that Caroline’s act usually managed to stir up in the more red-blooded fellers and which led to the pretty blonde chanteuse being bombarded with offers of drinks, and more. The frustrated punters, driven to erotic distraction by Miss Mundee, made fair pickings for cheap drifting jades like ‘Five Cent’ Francine and ‘Big’ Tess, whose looks might have seen better days, but were happy to turn a trick for the price of a shot of grog and this week’s rent.

 

These common prostitutes were on pretty good terms with La Mundee, surprisingly to some. They knew that she didn’t turn tricks and, therefore, sent a lot of customers their way.  Arabella they seemed to treat in a misty-eyed maudlin way as their long-lost, or rather long-ago-aborted daughter. They had also immediately picked up on the fact that Arabella was, as Tess rather quaintly put it ‘a quare girl with a tit in her hand’, even before she had quite realised it herself. That didn’t stop Tess regularly encouraging the girl to ‘go on the game’ herself, emphasising the easy money to made from stupid men whose meagre brains were in their pants. “Why work yerself to death washing an’ scrubbing an playing dat pianna when you can make twice as much lyin’ down and twiddlin’ yer thumbs?” she’d reason in her more sober moments. Of course, either of them could get vicious if they were too far gone with the drink, or if they thought another girl was trying to work their patch.

 

@Wayfarer

 

 

 

 

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This was going from bad to worse, now a second man was taking an interest in her. Miriam just wanted to leave but  was too mousy to actually try and physically resist. Instead she continued to simply reason with this Frank.

 

"Sir, I really have to be going. My parents are expecting me home ..."

 

Frank just kept shepherding her with one big arm around her waist toward the bar, "Oh sure. You can go once we just have a little drink or two. That's how it works ya know, kid, I buy ya a drink, you be nice and keep me company a bit. I ain't gonna hurt you none."

 

It was fairly busy and she wasn't due to perform her stage show for another hour yet so Caroline was helping Ralph behind the bar for a bit. Soon she'd have to get back to wandering the floor, mingling with the menfolk, charming them into spending yet more money on drinks.

As she glanced down the bar she saw the man and..........wait! Wasn't that the young Jew girl from Pettigrew's? What the hell?

 

"Ralph," she turned and just simply said the bartender's name. His attention secured, she gestured with a nod of her head in the direction of that girl and then headed that way. Ralph got the message, she'd do her part, if necessary he would back her.

 

As Miriam was practically pressed up against the hard wood of the bar, there was suddenly the harlot in a low cut red dress on the other side of the bar. Before she could even say anything though Caroline spoke up.

 

"Alright, what's goin' on? What ya doin' Frank, that ain't yer daughter cuz you once told me you don't have any kids."

 

"Aww, naw, Mundee, just buyin' this little missy a drink and one fer me too," Frank grinned pleased with himself like the cat who swallowed the canary.

 

Caroline glanced at Miriam, who shook her head in the negative with wide eyes, "I don't want any, ma'am. I just wa...."

 

"Aww come on, we just agreed on this," Frank lied, not wishing to be deprived of just a wee bit of fun with this fresh young thing.

 

"No, don't think so. She's too young for drinkin and she don't want none. Let 'er go, Frank," Caroline's smile was a bit tense now.

 

Frank chuckled, "You don' scare me none, Miss Mundee."

 

"Oh it's not me you should be scared of, Frank," Caroline stopped smiling and called out quite clearly, "Hey, Ralph! Got some trouble here!"

 

There was the bearded bar man looking grim and hefting a sawed off double barreled shotgun coming at them.

 

"Whoa! Now wait a minute!" Frank instantly dropped his arm from around the girl and took a step backward, "I don' want no trouble, just tryin' ta have a little fun is all."

 

Miriam took this drama in almost forgetting to breath, frozen in place. But she realized of course she had just been rescued and finally swallowed .

 

"You wanna buy someone a drink, Frank, buy me a drink. And one fer yerself too," Caroline strongly suggested.

 

"Oh yep, I can do just that.....here," he reached into his shirt pocket for some coinage while Ralph just stood there watching along side of Caroline.

 

"Why thank ya, Frank....oh, and another nickel too for a glass of sarsparilla for the young miss here," Caroline grinned.

 

Money changing hands and drinks poured, Frank faded back into the crowd. Caroline shoved the sarsparilla glass toward Miriam.

 

"Here, hon. What the blazes you doin' in here anyhow?"

 

ooc: Arabella can show up any second now.  :)

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Dishes done, Arabella hustled back to the Saloon proper (or maybe improper would be a better way of describing it!) with a tray full of clean glasses to replenish Mr. Flandry's supply. After safely carrying the tottering load through a crowd of big shoving, bustling cowboys and other denizens of this boozy world, she nearly dropped the thing in shock once she got to the bar.

 

"Miriam?!!!" she yelped, her eyes popping out of her head and her jaw dropping. It has, perhaps, to be noted at this point that Arabella pronounced her friend's name Murm.

 

"What you doin' here?! This ain't a nice place fer you!!" she gasped as she threw the tray down on the bar with a clinking clatter. She grabbed the innocent little seamstress round the shoulder and started to usher her away from the bar and through the crowd. "Come on through to the back, yeah, bring your drink." she said she started to snake her way through. 

 

They were met in the Kitchen by Mammy McMahon, of course, who shook her head at the sight of her little helper dragging in another stray. "Why who you got there, Arabella?" she asked, which made a change from the usual "What you got there now, child?!"

 

"This is my friend Miriam, Cookie; Miriam, this is Mammy Cookie!" 

 

"Mrs McMahon will do" she corrected. "Well now Miriam, what the Dickens a nice lookin' little girl like you doin', goin' in that nasty old bar? That ain't no place for decent girls, that's for the likes o' Miss Caroline and Arabella here." she admonished.

 

 

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Almost before Miriam could answer Caroline's question, who should rush up but the very girl she had been looking for!  And Arabella was both excited and quite alarmed.

 

"What you doin' here?! This ain't a nice place fer you!!"

 

"Oh hi, well I was..." that was all Miriam got out when she was instantly pulled away from the bar, barely having time to reach for her sarsparilla then be led thru the milling customers toward the interior of the place. Miriam simply looked down, not wanting to even meet any man's stare. One Frank was enough.

 

"I didn't get to thank Miss Mundee," she pointed out as she was then ushered into a kitchen. There was someone else in there too - a rotund negro woman. No doubt the cook. Naturally the cook was curious.

 

"This is my friend Miriam, Cookie; Miriam, this is Mammy Cookie!" Arabella gushed almost proudly.

 

Well, the number of times the young Jewess had conversed with a negro could be counted on one hand.......actually using simply one finger.  Miriam smiled though.

 

"Hello," she didn't get time for more - this was a recurring theme it seemed.

 

"Mrs McMahon will do" she corrected. "Well now Miriam, what the Dickens a nice lookin' little girl like you doin', goin' in that nasty old bar? That ain't no place for decent girls, that's for the likes o' Miss Caroline and Arabella here."

 

Miriam was not sure she appreciated being called a 'little girl' and then was shocked the negro lumped Arabella in with the harlot, gosh!

 

"Well....it was an accident. I was just outside peeking thru the doors when this man took me inside. I clearly told him I wanted to go back out but he insisted he was going to buy me a drink. I declined of course."

 

Suddenly she realized she was holding the drink glass, granted not with alcohol in it but still.

 

"Oh...umm, this was given to me by Miss Mundee. She got me away from that man. So yes, it was all a misunderstanding..."

 

 

 

 

 

 

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"I didn't get to thank Miss Mundee," she pointed out as she was then ushered into a kitchen. There was someone else in there too - a rotund negro woman. No doubt the cook. Naturally the cook was curious.

 

"Oh, she don't mind!" replied Arabella airily as she manoeuvred the un-streetwise girl out of the bearpit of the main saloon and into the peaceful haven of the kitchen.

 

"This is my friend Miriam, Cookie; Miriam, this is Mammy Cookie!" Arabella gushed almost proudly.

 

"Hello," she didn't get time for more - this was a recurring theme it seemed.

 

"Mrs McMahon will do" she corrected. "Well now Miriam, what the Dickens a nice lookin' little girl like you doin', goin' in that nasty old bar? That ain't no place for decent girls, that's for the likes o' Miss Caroline and Arabella here."

 

"Yeah, what was you doin' there?" chimed in her friend, intrigued.

 

"Well....it was an accident. I was just outside peeking thru the doors when this man took me inside. I clearly told him I wanted to go back out but he insisted he was going to buy me a drink. I declined of course."

 

"He he, yeah, it looks like it!" chuckled Arabella, pointing to the beverage in Miriam's hand.

 

Suddenly she realized she was holding the drink glass, granted not with alcohol in it but still.

 

"Oh...umm, this was given to me by Miss Mundee. She got me away from that man. So yes, it was all a misunderstanding..."

 

"Hooray for good old Mundee!" cheered Arabella, for this was a couple of weeks before their big falling-out.

 

"Say, Cookie, do you like the way Miriam speaks? I think it's just wonderful!" beamed Arabella as she listened dreamily to her new pal's unusual Yiddish accent. For her part, the black cook chuckled. "Why, I ain't heard nobody speak that-a-ways since I lived in New York: that where you hail from, sugar?" she asked.

 

"New York?!" gasped Arabella, who was obsessed with dreams of appearing as an actress on the Great White Way of Broadway.

 

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"Hooray for good old Mundee!" cheered Arabella, for this was a couple of weeks before their big falling-out.

 

"Yes," Miriam nodded, leaving it at that, having made a silent decision to not think of that woman as a harlot anymore. Although, realistically she could be.

 

"Say, Cookie, do you like the way Miriam speaks? I think it's just wonderful!" beamed Arabella as she listened dreamily to her new pal's unusual Yiddish accent.

 

"You think so?" Miriam replied.

 

For her part, the black cook chuckled. "Why, I ain't heard nobody speak that-a-ways since I lived in New York: that where you hail from, sugar?" she asked.

 

"Yes, my family lived in New York until my father decided he wanted to start up his own business out west.  My parents also thought a small town might be a better place to live than a huge city what with all the noise and smells. And crime," Miriam explained.

 

Miriam noted that Arabella obviously had a far more positive view of New York than she did.

 

She then turned to the girl, "I am sorry, I should go though. I did not mean to take you from your work. I know Mr. Pettigrew would not be happy should the situation be reversed and I don't want you to get into trouble."

 

In truth she had only wanted to sneak a peek not cause a fuss.

 

 

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"You think so?" Miriam replied.

 

"Uh huh!" nodded Arabella enthusiastically. Frankly, she would have liked Miriam's accent whatever it sounded like, but there was something exotic about it that carried her off to some imagined biblical desert land.

 

For her part, the black cook chuckled. "Why, I ain't heard nobody speak that-a-ways since I lived in New York: that where you hail from, sugar?" she asked.

 

"Yes, my family lived in New York until my father decided he wanted to start up his own business out west.  My parents also thought a small town might be a better place to live than a huge city what with all the noise and smells. And crime," Miriam explained.

 

"Well, there sure were a lot more ups and downs there than here!" agreed Messalina, her mind flitting back to the time that she'd nearly been murdered in the Draft Riots during the war. But no matter how bad and starving and cold things had been in New York at times, it had been better than  slavery with a full belly.

 

She then turned to the girl, "I am sorry, I should go though. I did not mean to take you from your work. I know Mr. Pettigrew would not be happy should the situation be reversed and I don't want you to get into trouble."

 

"Awwww!" pouted Arabella, wanting her friend to stay longer, but aware that her family might be wondering where she was and that she herself would be needed soon in the saloon.

 

"Cookie, can I walk Miriam home? We got crime here too, and ornery fellas like Frank Masters, she might need protectin'." she reasoned, which only made the older woman laugh. "Chil', you couldn't protect a ant! But go on along! If anyone asks, I'll tell em I sent you on a chore." she agreed. It was good that Arabella had found a friend more her own age and who seemed to bring out the best in the madcap little creature.

 

Her relationship with the singer she played piano for was less healthy and, cooped up in this saloon together, bore all the hallmarks of a boiler about to explode. Maybe Arabella's blossoming friendship with Miriam would distract her from her slightly feverish love/hate relationship with Caroline.

 

"But don't you dawdle now!" she gave a final admonishment as the two girls exited - out of the back door this time!

 

@Wayfarer

 

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The negro woman knew what Miriam was talking about and affirmed it too. Miriam smiled. She seemed like a pleasant person to work with, Arabella was lucky then. However the Jewess knew she should go and not get the other girl into trouble with her boss.

 

"Awwww!" pouted Arabella.

 

"Cookie, can I walk Miriam home? We got crime here too, and ornery fellas like Frank Masters, she might need protectin'." she reasoned, which only made the older woman laugh. "Chil', you couldn't protect a ant! But go on along! If anyone asks, I'll tell em I sent you on a chore."

 

Oh that was kind of her. Honestly, other than some of the customers, this saloon did not seem that awful a place in Miriam's opinion based on a small sample size of course.

 

"But don't you dawdle now!" she gave a final admonishment as the two girls exited - out of the back door this time!

 

They were in the alley then, Miriam turning to Arabella, "She is very nice. Is she a good cook too?"

 

As they excited the alley, they turned toward the residential section strolling down the boardwalk.

 

"You must really lead an exciting life, Arabella. Mine has been so dull...well except for that one fitting," Miriam grinned.

 

That had been so intense, so scary, and yet.....also a bit....exhilarating if she was to be honest.

 

 

 

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They were in the alley then, Miriam turning to Arabella, "She is very nice. Is she a good cook too?"

 

"Aw, sure!" nodded Arabella enthusiastically, automatically taking Miriam's arm. She never tried that twice with Clara, who had always rejected any form of physical contact: but somehow she felt that Miriam would accept her sisterly action.

 

"And sometimes she cooks something from back home in Virginia, just for us two! The others wouldn't like it if she gave 'em hominy grits or biscuits 'n' gravy." she laughed. 

 

"You must really lead an exciting life, Arabella. Mine has been so dull...well except for that one fitting," Miriam grinned.

 

"Kinda too excitin' sometimes!" chuckled Arabella, her heart melting at this girl, who actually seemed interested in her, whereas everybody else in this town merely seemed to endure her, at best.

 

"Well, that there modellin' you did was only the beginnin' of the excitement fer you, I reckon: me an' Caroline was so taken with you in that dress, you looked so gosh darn pretty. Course, it was kinda funny when you accidently showed off your..." she lowered her voice to a whisper "... boobies, but least you got somethin' to show off!" she assured the girl of her fine physique, compared with her own. 

 

A curious frown wrinkled her brow as they walked.

 

"Say, how you gettin' on workin' with Jemima?" she asked with a sort of forced nonchalance that would  immediately alert anybody with any nous that it was a loaded question.

 

@Wayfarer

 

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