Sam was a sucker for a damsel in distress. He couldn’t help himself. There was something about a woman in trouble that made him throw all caution to the wind in order to save her. It started early when he was just twelve years old. His best friend’s kid sister came to him with a problem, and when she sobbed out her story, he was rearing to help. All it took was a quick jab to the nose of the neighborhood bully to put an end to the girl’s torment. But from that moment on, Sam had found his calling. All through school the girls knew that if there was a need, Sam would be ready and willing. And the guys all knew that if Sam became involved it would not end well for them.
After graduation, with a knee that finally gave out so no college prospects, Sam went to work. Whatever he could find, no job was too menial. He learned that if he kept his mouth shut, and his eyes open, the streets were a veritable smorgasbord of easy money; not to mention all the opportunities to help a lady. Which is what happened when SHE walked in. As usual for a Wednesday afternoon, Sam was at the Aces and Eights, waiting for the phone call that always came at 5:30 pm. He was in his usual chair, at the far corner of the bar, in the shadows, near the phone so when the call came, Eddie could hand the receiver over to Sam.
The late afternoon sun was coming in through the opened door. It’s bright amber light brought to life the cigarette smoke that wafted though the bar. Smoke from Sam’s and Eddie’s cigarettes as they were the only two in the establishment at this time of day. As the two men chatted about inconsequential things, a shadow flitted across the doorway. Sam and Eddie shifted their gaze to the door, but it was already gone, an apparition that barely came between the sun and the interior of the bar. They returned to their interrupted conversation when it happened again. This time the ghostly creature hung in the doorway, its vestments caught in the barest of breeze coming off the street.
The head looked right then left as if questioning whether this was the place to take shelter. In a moment of both trepidation and resolution the apparition stepped forward into the duskiness of the bar. As she did, her clothing became backlit in the lateness of the day. The summer garments left very little to the imagination, and both men caught their breath at the figure of the young woman.
She stood briefly in this position as her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit bar. But as soon as she gained her bearings, she stepped to one of the stools at the face of the bar and sat down. She stared at herself in the mirror, not in a moment of vanity, but as if she were trying to justify a decision. She opened her clutch purse and took out a cigarette case and lighter. Removing a stick from the silver container, she tapped it three times on the bar then brought it to her lips and lit it. She inhaled deeply and slowly blew the smoke out, mingling it with that of Sam’s and Eddie’s.
Sam came to his senses first, and shoved Eddie in the arm. Eddie shook his head and moved over to his newest patron.
“What can I getcha?” he asked as he absently rubbed the bar with a rag.
“Gin and Tonic, please,” came the reply. Her voice was low and raspy, as if she had spent decades in gin joints across the country.
Eddie fixed the libation and set it in front of the woman. She nodded her head in thanks as she moved her gaze momentarily from the reflection to the bartender. Sam watched as she took the barest of sips before putting the glass back down. Her right elbow sat lightly on the edge of the bar with the cigarette in her hand. Her left hand intermittently grazed her glass. She continued to stare at her reflection, her eyes casting a faraway glance, a silent conversation only she was privy to. From his vantage point in the shadows, Sam took the opportunity to look at the girl in depth. Her hair was the deepest brunette, gathered at the nape of her neck in a careless knot. The loose tendrils curled in the heat and humidity. Her clothing was of definite quality; a white muslin dress with a shawl that spoke of antiquity. Bracelets adorned her left wrist; and they were of quality silver, but nothing encircled her neck nor hung from her earlobes. Every few moments, her left hand left the glass to lightly touch the clutch that lay in her lap. Sam could tell something of importance was inside and she felt a need to check on its security.
Sam felt himself being drawn into this woman’s affairs. Helping her could be his greatest triumph or his greatest defeat. As he dreamily wondered the color of her eyes, and imagined them a vibrant violet, the telephone rang from behind the bar. Eddie halted his task of polishing the glassware and lifted the receiver. As soon as he heard the voice at the other end he gave the phone to Sam.
Sam grunted, “Yeah, I’m here,” as he grabbed a napkin from under the bar and pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket. He repeated a long list of numbers as he wrote them down. He looked up momentarily to see a couple of young sailors enter the now shaded entrance. He nodded to Eddie who began watching the duo as he stood near the phone.
The two young men, boys practically, in their dress bell bottoms laughed and tussled each other as they came into the Aces and Eights. They were fresh off of basic training and ready to take the town by storm. As their gazes roamed the establishment they finally settled on the young woman. Both straightened up to their full height. The one on the left whistled lowly. They stepped in unison to the girl’s right side.
Sam put a hand over the phone’s mouthpiece and hissed at Eddie. When he had the bartender’s attention he whispered, “Put two more drinks next to her on this side.” Eddie’s eyes brightened in understanding and went to prepare the beverages, all the while maintaining a watch on the two newcomers.
Sam tried to hurry up his conversation. He could tell that the sailors’ attitude to the girl were beginning to turn towards the lewd. To her credit, she maintained an external composure. Her only response being that she crushed her cigarette in the ashtray and let her right hand drift down to her purse. Sam hoped she wouldn’t try to bolt. If she attempted to flee the two navy boys would simply forestall her at the door, then she would be in real trouble.
Finally, the information that Sam needed was concluded and the telephone call ended. Eddie placed two fresh gin and tonics on the left side of the girl then went to collect the phone from Sam. Sam grabbed what was left of his beverage and made a bee line over to his newest damsel in distress.
He put a hand lightly on her shoulder as he spoke in his most charming voice, “Sorry to keep you waiting, darling. That call took longer than expected. Hope you haven’t been too lonely.”
While the action had the desired affect on the young sailors, they looked with some horror upon the large man that just came up out of nowhere; the same could not be said for the woman. She had jumped imperceptibly because she had not known of his existence, but the look she gave him was anything but appreciation. Bright golden eyes flashed at him, marking him as another assailant. The tell tale clicking noise of a gun being cocked filled the bar. All four men looked at the girl in wonder. The boys in white made a hasty retreat. Eddie stepped back to the sink and began washing glasses. Sam took his hand off her shoulder, but instead of stepping back, he merely slid into the barstool beside her.
“I see my assistance was not required,” he began. He took one of the newest drinks and downed about half in a couple gulps. He slid the other towards the girl, who’s own drink was still nearly full.
Sam spied that her right shoulder slightly stiffened before her hand came up from her lap. A small sigh escaped his lips as he was assured she no longer held the gun. She took another cigarette from her case and light it. After taking a couple drags, she finally turned to Sam.
“Is it your nature to butt into every situation?” she asked as she tapped the cigarette on the ashtray.
“I like to think I’m chivalrous and willing to help out a young lady when the need arises,” he smiled.
“I’m able to care for myself, thank you.” To punctuate the statement she took her glass and downed a goodly portion of the contents.
“So I heard,” Sam responded. “Had I known you were so, how should I say, well equipped, I would have never left my vantage point.”
The slightest of smiles pricked at the corners of the young woman’s mouth. It was quickly replaced by a look of discomfort. She put out her cigarette, put the case and lighter back in her purse and stood to leave.
“I should never have come in,” she murmured as a farewell. She took just two steps before she collapsed.
– – – – – –
Do you believe in fate? I’m more of the Sarah Conner school of thought: “No Fate But What You Make.”
While I have been on hiatus these past two weeks, I have not been lounging on the couch eating bon bons. Okay, I have once or twice lounged, but there were no chocolatey confections. I have been trying my best to work on a short story of some significance. That and working on the property cleaning up after a couple wind storms, getting seeds ready for planting, working on the never ending remodel, and starting a new massive cleanup project based on the recommendations of a gentlemen from our conservation district. Nothing too strenuous. So the brilliant Stephanie from Inspiration Monday posts her newest challenge and it magically fits into what I have been writing. Of course this is a very rough first draft, but I hope it piques your interest. There is still much more to be written and hopefully polished.
Of course, I completely blew past the word count rule, but I hope you will forgive me.
And if you weren’t already familiar, here are the rules:
There are none. Read the prompts, get inspired, write something. No word count minimum or maximum. You don’t have to include the exact prompt in your piece, and you can interpret the prompt(s) any way you like.
No really; I need rules!
Okay; write 200-500 words on the prompt of your choice. You may either use the prompt as the title of your piece or work it into the body of your piece. You must complete it before 6 pm CST on the Monday following this post.
CANDY FROM A GROWNUP
LET’S PLAY DROP
PINS AND KNITTING NEEDLES
NEW KIND OF MAGIC
Want to share your Inspiration Monday piece? Post it on your blog and then give me the link in the comments below (I’ll also love you more if you link back to me); I’ll include a link to your piece in the next Inspiration Monday post. No blog? Email your piece to me at stephanie (at) bekindrewrite (dot) com. (I do reserve the right to NOT link to a piece as stated in my Link Discretion Policy.)