Published on Friday, May 22, 2015
The Senator's Visit
By John Laneri
Most Saturday mornings, Sheriff Matt Carson bypasses the town cafe and heads straight for breakfast at Aunt Jillie's Boarding House — a place known throughout Texas as the finest establishment in Neverton, a small community along the cattle trail to Fort Worth.
Hearing a flurry of activity coming from the parlor, he turned to see what was causing the commotion.
"Why Sheriff Carson!" Jillie said, in a startled voice. "You surprised me." She paused to wipe the moisture from her cheeks then continued, "I've had busy morning... got up before the sun."
While Jillie was usually well groomed and fashionable, today a scarf covered her hair and a man's shirt with long tails hung to her knees.
"You're lookin' mighty casual this morning."
She pecked his cheek with a kiss. "Let's have coffee. I'll tell you all about it."
With his stomach growling for pancakes, he followed her through the dining room, toward the back of the house where they settled across from one another at a small table in the kitchen.
"Why so busy?" he asked, while she was pouring his coffee.
"I'm getting the house ready for the Senator. I want everything to be perfect."
In the background, the Sheriff detected the aroma of a pot roast slowly cooking. Savoring the smell, he went on to say, "I take it, you're referring to that fellow passin' through from the state capitol."
"Can you imagine, a real senator staying at my house. There's so much work to do."
"You seem to be going to lots trouble just to please a state senator."
"If I treat him right, he'll go back to the capitol and spread the word that my house is the finest in Texas."
"Your house already is the finest in Texas."
"But, I want the important people with lots of money to know that too." She touched his arm. "He's promised to pay me one hundred dollars."
"One hundred dollars," he said, surprised. "That's a powerful amount of money for one of your girls."
"You don't understand... he wants me," she replied, smiling brightly. "I'm getting' one hundred dollars for providing a night of pleasure along with a pot roast dinner and a splash in my new bathtub."
It took the Sheriff a few moments to sort through her words before saying, "What I don't understand is, how you plan to satisfy both the senator and me at eleven o'clock — our usual Saturday night time."
She removed the scarf from her hair and began adjusting several knots of ribbon hidden underneath. They were the kind women use to tie the hair into little balls close to the head. For most ladies, it was a grooming technique that helped to curl to the hair. For most men though, it was something that provoked a rather unfavorable response and frequently encouraged a closer look just to be sure another troublesome characteristic was not lurking quietly under the surface of an otherwise pretty face.
Smiling, she continued. "I didn't think you'd mind postponing our Saturday night flirtation, knowing it's for one hundred dollars."
While the Sheriff had generally enjoyed the rich texture and reddish highlights in her hair, Jillie's curling ribbons distracted from his pleasure.
Forcing a smile, he asked, "What about that girl from Abilene, the one with the blue eyes. She gets fellows plenty inspired."
Jillie paused to adjust another curl. "She's too skinny for a distinguished gentleman, and besides, she likes to use spurs... can I get you a coffee refill?"
His eyes still directed to the hair, he replied, "I've had enough coffee. Some things tend to upset my insides something awful."
Finally, she replaced the scarf then smiling playfully she touched the back of his hand. "I hope you'll come by the house tonight and visit with the Senator."
"I doubt the Senator will be much interested in me," he indicated, as he reached for his hat. "Actually, I've been thinkin' of playin' poker with some of the boys over at the saloon. I need to win some money... seems my pocketbook is getting mighty thin. I'll need at least another twenty dollars so as not to go hungry before the end of the month."
"Your official presence would make the house more comfortable for the Senator. You know how often fellows get out of hand when they get liquored."
"One of my deputies can check by every hour or so."
"Your official presence would mean so much to me," she said, as her bare foot began to creep playfully up his leg. "What time can I expect you tonight?" she asked, her voice purring sweetly.
Setting the foot aside, the Sheriff came to his feet. "I need to get going. Some of the fellows are already tossin' horseshoes over by the livery stable. If I'm lucky, I might just win a few extra bucks to carry me over. If not, then hopefully I can catch a few fish at the river. Anything to carry me over."
In desperation, she glared at him then finally asked, "Would twenty dollars be enough money to buy your official presence?"
Laughing to himself, confident that a little deception works magic, he stuffed the twenty into his pocket and headed for the door, knowing that if he played his cards right, the Senator would end up getting spurred, and he'd get Jillie as well as a splash in her bathtub and a generous portion of pot roast for his evening meal.
Later that afternoon, Jillie was waiting on the front porch of her house when Senator Thadeus Osborne's carriage pulled to a stop.
On first look, he appeared to be an overweight, pompous appearing gentleman, wearing red suspenders hitched to baggy pants.
After greeting one another, they conversed for several minutes, and then spent most of the afternoon sitting in the shade of her back yard where they continued chattering away while they sipped whiskey and watched birds flit about the trees. Later that evening, they ate a home style meal consisting of a slow cooked pot roast garnished with new potatoes and fresh green beans grown in her garden.
Once they had become thoroughly filled with food, they drifted to her front porch for a breath of fresh air.
"That sounds wonderful," she said to the Senator. "So you're planning to have the legislature proclaim a day in my honor."
"That's exactly what I'm thinkin' little lady. It's time for folks to appreciate girls like you."
"I never knew we were so important."
"You provide the world a healthy service."
"I have to admit we do offer fellows a pleasant experience."
The Senator took a draw on his cigar, the glow illuminating his rotund belly and sagging jowls.
Blowing smoke her way, he went on to say, "I can picture the governor now, standing at his podium in front of the capitol building, proclaiming a day in your honor. I suspect there'll be cheering crowds and gentlemen traveling from far and wide. Why hell, before I'm done, the President in Washington might even declare a new national holiday."
Coughing, Jillie fanned a hand at the smoke then said, "Just naming a holiday after me is reason enough to be proud."
"It's my pleasure... Why it seems, I'm always telling friends at the capitol that fine ladies deserve a honest reward for the services they provide the community."
Speaking of rewards," she said, "Would you like to go upstairs? It's so hot tonight, I'm ready for a splash together in my new bath tub. I'd like you to enjoy every penny of that one hundred dollars you offered."
Taking a surprised step back, his eyes lifted. "One hundred dollars!"
Smiling pleasantly, she continued, "I recall your mentioning one hundred dollars in your letter. As you know, all working girls want something in return for allowing fellows to explore their finer qualities."
The Senator cleared his throat. "One hundred dollars is a mighty steep price for exploring a lady's finer qualities — though I have to admit yours are the finest I've seen in some time. A day in your honor at the capitol seems a powerful enough compensation."
"But. . . " she persisted, "We agreed in our letters on one hundred dollars. As you might recall, my offer included a fine dinner, followed by a lively splash in my bathtub as well as a restful night on a clean bed with ironed sheets. As to any other treats, I assured you they would be available the moment a calling arose."
Taking another draw on the cigar, he went on to ask, "Does your bathtub come with whiskey? I'm mighty fond of spirits while I'm soaking. . . helps me get a restful night."
"It comes with whatever you like," she replied smoothly. "I even provide a back brush in case my fingers get too playful."
"You strike a hard bargain, little lady," he replied, his voice trailing away. "But, twenty dollars is about all I have in my pocket."
"Maybe you'd rather acquaint with one of the other girls," she said calmly. "I've got a cute little lady from Turnerville. She likes to wear boots and spurs when she works. Most fellows tend to fall in love with her... enthusiasm."
Taking another long draw on his cigar, the Senator finally said, "Spurs are a bit too harsh on the backside. But, now that you mention it, I do remember something about one hundred dollars."
"Then, lets go upstairs," she continued playfully. "By tomorrow morning, I'm sure you'll be ready to plan another vacation at my house whenever you feel up to partaking of a lively, fun-filled weekender."
While the Senator and Jillie were on the way to her room, Sheriff Carson was making his way to the boarding house. His evening at the saloon had paid off handsomely and earned him another twenty dollars which added a happy bounce to his step.
After a few words with his deputy, he headed inside, noting a goodly number of fellows milling around. To his left he spotted a cute little lady leading a cowboy up the stairs, giggling mischievously as she pulled him along by his belt. Nearer the bar, several gentlemen were busy talking and sipping whiskey as they watched the girls playfully move form gent to gent.
Soon, a stranger approached him. "Evening Sheriff. Nice little town you have here."
"We're proud of it," he replied, as he noticed a solidly built man carrying an look of confidence in his demeanor. "I take it you're visitin' from out of town."
"That I am," the man replied.
"Then, I suspect you're here to partake of the entertainment. Aunt Jillie has some mighty fine little ladies."
"Maybe later, after I finish enjoying my whiskey. Just now, I need to relax and prop my boots for a spell. Keeping up with the Senator makes for a busy day."
"You're with the Senator's entourage, I take it."
"I'm the one and only member of his entourage. Most fellows were reluctant to sign on. Good money though if you can get it up front."
"I'm surprised that more fellows didn't enlist. Most politicians have plenty deep pockets."
"Often times, I wonder where they get all that money."
"How true." the Sheriff replied."
Continuing the man asked, "Care for a cigar? They're rolled in Galveston with leaves from Cuba."
After lighting up, the Sheriff took several healthy draws then said, "What does the Senator have planned for the next session of the legislature?"
The gentleman glanced his way, his eyes lifting in surprise. "Word must travel slow around here. Matter of fact, the Senator is planning to retire. He's on his way home to a little farm northeast of Fort Worth. I was hired to see that he gets there safely."
"You mean he's not going back to the capitol. I suspect there's plenty of unfinished business for the state senate to attend too."
The man smiled. "His colleagues in the senate told him to leave town and never come back. They were considering impeachment, so they told him to either resign or be thrown out."
He paused to take a long draw on his cigar and continued. "Can I buy you a drink?"
"A good shot of whiskey always does the soul good, but tonight, I need to be sure that fellows don't get out of hand and disturb the Senator and Aunt Jillie."
Laughing, the man went on to say, "I hope Aunt Jillie got her money up front."
"Are you sayin' what I'm thinkin'?" The Sheriff asked, turning to him.
"Yep...quite a few folks want him dead. He'll be lucky to get home in one piece. It seems he has a powerful attraction to other people's money. I'm surprised Aunt Jillie agreed to let him stay at her house."
"She was hoping to make a statement and remind folks that her house is the best in Texas."
"Her house is the finest in Texas," the man replied with a look of surprise on his face. "I thought most folks knew that."
"Sometimes, Jillie gets a bit worried whenever business slows down. I suspect she didn't know anything about his proclivities for thievery."
"Women in her position," the man went on to say, "know how to take care of themselves. She'll probably come out just fine." Pausing, he glanced about, his eyes coming to rest on one of the girls. "What's that girl's name?" He pointed to a corner of the room where a young lady had her skirt pulled up to the top of her thigh and looked to be busy adjusting a garter. "The one with the blond hair and curls. She's mighty pretty."
The Sheriff followed his gaze, his eyes coming to rest on a cute little lady with rosy cheeks and a happy face. "That's Lucy Maye. She's a real hellion. I hear she comes from a little town west of San Angelo. They say she's a real screamer too."
The man took a step to leave then stopped and turned to the Sheriff. "You'll have to excuse me, but Lucy Maye looks to be exactly my type. Think I'll rest my boots later. It's about time I get my mind off the Senator and get acquainted with some of the ladies in this town."
"I'll keep an eye on the Senator while you're busy with Lucy Maye."
"Don't bother yourself," the man replied. "I doubt the Senator will make it back to his farm alive."
The following morning while walking his usual rounds, the Sheriff spotted Jillie sitting on a porch swing quietly watching birds feed under a tree.
"I looked for you last night," he said. "But, I didn't see either you or the Senator. I was hoping to get a taste of that pot roast."
"The Senator ate the whole thing... well, most of it."
"That's disappointing... a juicy pot roast is one of my favorites. Otherwise, how did your night go?"
"Not so good."
"What happened? I thought you were plannin' to court the man in style."
"I don't want to talk about it."
Studying her carefully, he asked, "Did he do something to harm you? Some fellows get their pleasures knocking women around."
She glanced his way. "Nothing like that, but I only left the room for a few minutes thinking he had passed out from too much whiskey, and before I knew it, he snatched my money and disappeared out the door. I even had the money hidden in a jar on my dressing table"
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"The old buzzard didn't even bother to say 'thank you' for the free meal and whiskey. I wasted most of my day and half the night listening to a line of bull as long as your arm. In a manner of speaking, the only thing I still have is my virtue."
"In my experience, doing business with politicians is a losing proposition. As a matter of fact, while you were courting the Senator, I met some fellow in your parlor who said the man was being forced to retire. It seems the legislature has refused to let him come back — said something about stealing money from folks. From what I gathered, the Senator has an ability to talk big while he shakes your hand and then takes your money when you look away."
"If you track him down and bring him to justice, you'll be a real hero."
The Sheriff tuned to her. "Corralling politicians with sticky fingers is a bit more than my duties entail."
"But, if you do it for me, I'll treat you to an all nighter for free."
"That's a mighty tempting offer," he replied laughing, "But, you've been treating me for free for over twenty years — all nighter's included."
"What would you say if I decided to stop being friendly like lots of married women?"
"I'd probably conclude that you don't love me anymore. Then I'd be miserable."
Smiling, she came to her feet and then eased onto his lap. "I'd be miserable too. And, I'm so sorry about last night. Something caused my head to go crazy."
"Maybe, it was those terrible lookin' curling ribbons you were using to bate me."
She glanced his way and chuckled quietly. "No, it wasn't the curlers. I was only thinking of myself. I was wrong to exclude you." She took his hand and looked into his eyes. "I missed being with you last night. And, I've been thinking about you all morning."
"What were you thinking?" he asked.
"I was just wondering if you caught any fish yesterday?"
Smiling, he replied, "I only had a few nibbles here and there. The big fish weren't interested in biting. But then again, maybe I was trying too hard — folks tend to do that sometimes."
A native born Texan, John lives near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several professional journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.