((A story about inequality, with a smile) (Ashley Walsh, of Ozark, Alabama))
Havana, “The Heartless City,” the birthplace of the Rough Riders, and the destruction of the Battleship Maine, 1898, the destructive floods of the 1920s, when oil drilling was reduced…
And where Ashley Walsh made her home, and where she died—1867-1929.
Night Waters off Havana
((1867) (Aboard the ship ‘Peron’) (Captain Ashton Tyron Peron, Rosalina and Ashley Walsh))
The Captain’s cabin had a lower ceiling than average, especially for a huge man like Captain Ashton Tyron Peron, and every time he came through the doors he’d pert near hit his head, especially when drunk, forgetting it was so low. The heavy wooden floor inside and outside his cabin, was varnished, to a high glow. Ashley Walsh, remembered she was no more than seventeen years old when Rosalina, who owned one of the whorehouses in New Orleans, drugged her and sold her to the captain for $500-dollars, and she was kept for a year pretty much under lock and key in that cabin.
It was October 7, 1867, when she had paused, the captain this one early evening, the captain was somewhere, on board the ship, perhaps drinking with that negro banjo player, Wooden-leg Joe, they seemed to get along quite well, he was also a good helmsman the Captain told everyone (had she had to guess, it would be they were both at the helm, drinking rum or moonshine, hopefully, the ship would be steered by itself, to its destiny, often they’d get sidetracked because of their drunkenness and ended up in some local, they’d have to pull the map out to find out where exactly they were).
Anyhow, Ashley had paused, heard two drunken voices outside the cabin, she heard one of the rustic voices say, “You son of a snake, I get her first.” Then the other man’s voice replied, “You son of an American farmer and favored dog, I was here first.”
Ashley could not see who was who, very well, as she peeked through the keyhole of the door. The men were separated by a distance of no more than three to four feet. Too close she thought for a pistol shootout.
“I’ll give you money if you go away,” said one of the two voices, drunken voices. It was as if they were beating each other’s wings down, verbally, and hoping the other would get tired and just walk away, but in the meantime, they were pushing and shoving, harder and harder, at one another, it would just be a matter of time, thought Ashley before they busted down the door, and they’d then figure they could take turns on her, share her—at this juncture, they didn’t want to do any sharing. They were getting so heated up; it was like two snakes biting their own tails.
“I’m going to give you some alligator sleep,” boasted one of the voices, meaning he’d put him out right quickly, for a long spell if he didn’t leave.
Ashley now could hear above the cabin, Wooden-leg Joe dragging his wooden leg along the deck, she was hoping he could hear the men, and would go tell the Captain.
The ship was on a course to the Port of Havana.
Then all of a sudden Captain Ashton Tyron Peron showed up looking at these two drunken sailors, sloppy drunk. He himself had had too many cups of rum, and wanted his woman, and they were in his way, plus he didn’t cater to the idea, what was on their minds.
Peron simply lunged into both of them, ramming his fists into their faces, which bounced against the cabin door. He grabbed his dagger, stuck it into their cuts, and ribs, as they dropped and dribbled with blood collapsing—more like crashing, onto the shinny varnished floor, to unconsciousness.
The Captain then kicked the lifeless bodies to the side, stepping over them, paying them no more attention than he would do to the wax that made the floor shine. It was time for his pleasures.
That was the night Captain Peron would tell Ashley, he was going to drop her off at the dock—matter of fact, it was within a few hours of this most recent disparity, with his shipmates.
(Ashley Walsh, 1868)(Havana)) Part Two
When Ashley was set free by Captain Ashton Tyron Peron, after a year’s incarceration in his cabin, a sex slave, she had found homage in Delia’s Inn. Delia, was much like Rosalina, of New Orleans, she ran a whorehouse, a café, and rented out apartments as well, all in one building, on one corner of Havana. But this time Ashley Walsh was no longer—the foolish young girl she was eighteen months ago, she knew the ropes. After three months of working for Delia, she asked for a written contract for them to be partners, since she was the main attraction, young, still lovely to look at, shapely, and experienced, and even the notorious Judge Castro Montes, known as “The Grave Judge,” took a liking for her. But Delia refused to sign the paper Ashley had drawn up, making them equal partners. Thus, she did something at the spur of the moment—perhaps remembering what Rosalina had done to her, Delia would sooner or later do to her again—by slipping her a Mickey Finn—and selling her to a ship’s captain, and be in the same old dilemma she just had gotten out of three months past.
Consequently, she hit Delia over the head with an accordion that was lying in the corner of her room, belonged to one of the musicians, who couldn’t pay for services rendered. When Delia awoke, she was tied to a chair.
“Now will you sign?” Ashley asked in a demanding tone.
“No,” she said, “and when I get out of here, you’ll be back on one of those filthy ships, doing what you know best,” and she laughed.
Ashley pulled out of a drawer, a derringer Delia kept in her room for occasions that might demand its use, and she shot Delia in the thigh, and Delia screamed to the high heavens, likened to a dying cat. Ashley stepped back, she had never seen anyone in such pain, suffering, and out of some automatic impulse, the derringer having two separate chambers, for two bullets, she pulled the trigger again, and it penetrated Delia’s chest, right through her heart, right out through the back of the chair, she was deader than a doornail.
Ashley was half asleep in her cell, it had a funny kind of smell to it, unknown—at first, but a decaying smell, then a reeking urine like smell—excrement, it was that of Delia. In her sleeping mind, she had asked “Haven’t you started your intergalactic trip yet?” Funny things we say in our dreams.
Ashley drifted into a deeper dream like mode, in and out in and out of it she went, as if the nightmare demon was working overtime. She saw beggars holding out stump of rotten arms, great black worms with wings protruding out of Delia’s Grave.
All these creatures, sleeping in their own filth; then she heard a voice, it woke her up. “Your name is?” asked a gentleman, standing by the iron bars of her cell, dressed in an expensive suite.
“I’m sorry, sir” said Ashley, dumbfounded, trying to regain her composure.
“I have passed your case onto the Judge, you know which one,” he said, as if he was disturbed of the fact he had to be the judge’s messenger.
She leaned forward onto the iron bars, thinking, ‘The old evil judge, will want to get a lot of freebies for this.’
The vile and putrid smell had gone, but as she looked up onto the ceiling, she noticed someone had written, “I know we’ll meet again some sunny day!” Then she yelled at the jailer, “Get me out of here,” she could hear the patter of footsteps pacing her cell.”
(1869)(Kill Devil, at Delia’s Inn) Part Three
Everyone said in Havana, Delia’s Inn served a good drink, Kill Devil, they called it—also known as Jamaica Rum (fermented from sugar cane). When Ashley took over the establishment, she maintained its dutiful reputation.
The muddy streets of Havana, the night air, it was warm, someone was strumming on a banjo, and that someone was Wooden-leg Joe, from the ship ‘The Peron,’ which was anchored at the dock.
Everyone having left the ship, now on the dock area, were getting drunk, some already in a drunken stupor, laughing all about the dock area, peeing into the Caribbean, as if it was their humongous toilet, Captain Ashton Peron was on the dockside thinking of what brothel or gaming house he was going to brawl in, and take Joe with him, as often he did. It all was too familiar and too noisy for him—there, where he stood with a cup of rum in his hand, therefore they left the waterfront.
“How about Delia’s Inn…” questioned Peron to Joe?
“They got a-hell of drink down there,” commented Joe.
It was getting late, and it seemed they were gravitating towards the Inn, unconsciously, as they passed from street to street, shops were closing up, blacksmiths, goldsmiths, grocers, all closing up for the evening, and then lo and behold, they were standing outside the Inn.
Ashley had counterfeited Delia’s signature onto a contract she had made up, before she killed her. After she had got out of jail, her friend the Judge, Castro Montes, helped make it all legal, knowing good and well, he’d be welcome in the Inn, free of charge to the last of his days on this earth. And the ownership was accepted with good grace.
Captain Ashton Peron had a deep and long scare on the right side of his forehead, an obvious proof of his past. He was aging, yet he still had some of that youthful steel in him, it hadn’t gone.
When Wooden-leg Joe wasn’t playing the banjo, he was a perfect helmsman, if not drunk. Now both standing inside Delia’s Inn, he patted a waitress on the dairy air, “Get me some of that hard kicking Jamaica Rum!” And she went to fetch some. Then he spotted Ashley, of all things.
“Life is sweet,” he said to Joe, as if Ashley was one of the Inn’s whores, and expecting to take her as he had before. Joe was silent, frowning, He knew Ashley was known by everyone in Havana, even the notorious Judge Castro Montes, and Sir Godfrey, by her side, was no push over, and as Peron neared her, so did several larger men than him, none with aging slanting backs.
“So you found employment here, I see…” commented Peron.
“No, not necessarily, I own the place, and I think it is better you leave while you can.”
“But life looks sweet for me here,” he told her; Joe pulling on his coat jacket.
“When do you sail?” she asked, stern and steady, not with a ounce of fear.
“In two days time,” he responded.
“Leave like bacon in the winter wind! I don’t necessarily want revenge; I just don’t want to see your face, ever again.”
Joe kind of chuckled, it rhymed and Peron looked at him as if to say: what’s so funny.
Leave here, and go find yourself some giggling women elsewhere. And surprisingly he did.
Sir Godfrey was nearby, said, “I can get a few men to do him in?”
“No,” said Ashley, “Revenge or hate is like a snake biting his own tale, the only legal revenge with God is success. Can’t you see in Peron’s face how he hates me for who I’ve become?”
“Yaw,” replied Sir Godfrey, “no bones in sympathy,” thinking perhaps she held some kind of respect for the old Captain, and that she could not outgrow.
The Barrel Maker
((Judge Castro Montes Capitán Ashton Tyron Perón, Wooden-leg Joe and Pablo Llosa, the Barrel Maker) (1869, Havana)) Part Four
He was the barrel maker, who lived down the street from Delia’s Inn, Havana, Cuba, Pablo Llosa, he made a good living off barrel making, for ships needing large quantities of water, Salt Pork, for long voyages.
Wooden-leg Joe, had remarked, perhaps in an ugly tone, the following morning, after they had been told to leave Delia’s Inn, remarked at the barrel makers shop, commented in front of Pablo as Captain Ashton Tyron Peron was ordering barrels, who took what Joe had said in a fictitious kind of manner, with a salty kind of smile, “We ought not to try to get revenge off that girl, we got lots of sea to traveling to do, she’s just trouble, we need to get these barrels onboard before she goes to her friends, and she’s got plenty of them around here I hear.” Joe meant no harm, he just knew the Captain well, and knew what was on his mind, what was annoying him, but it would have been better unsaid.
But he was hungry for Ashley Walsh in the worse way, mostly for blood, “I should have fed her to the sharks,” said Peron, and Pablo Llosa started laughing. And in a blink of a red eye, Peron slit open the belly of Pablo, and stood and laughed as his slimy coil of intestines spilled out onto his hands, it was, thought Joe, the ugliest sight, he had ever seen, but what took place next was even more amplifying, Pablo had, for some odd reason, been standing with his hands and palms upward, as if he had a six sense, and had caught his guts before they fell onto the dirty floor which had no floor at all, just a dirt floor—and there he stood, strange and erect as a totem pole, holding his innards and all in place, and with one hand he shifted them over and onto the other, onto his forearm, and with the free hand he picked up an old Spanish metal armor plate, and as his wife came running, having seen everything from a window, out of the back where the shop was attached to the kitchen, she placed it around his midsection, tying it with a belt, and then Pablo picked up a sword, and was ready to fight the old Captain.
From that, Joe deduced, this was seriously to be taken as an omen, of an impending doom for the ship, “The Peron,” and he verbally washed his hands of his friendship with the Captain.
Judge Castro Montes, had no time for omens, but he would be, Peron’s omen, knowingly or not. Although renowned as a captain, stupid sometimes, and brutal, he ordered Peron to jail, and realizing the ship had no crew, that it was left anchored, and it had no real value for cargo, and it was an old brig, and it might serve a purpose, he set out an agreement, for Peron to take “You sign your ship over to Pablo, and you’ll save the city a hanging, and feeding you in jail until that hanging takes place. And Pablo, will have more wood for more barrels, and can pay more taxes—somewhere along the line. And perhaps you can find your way off this island in twenty-four hours…because that’s as long as you got before this agreement runs out.”
There is no sense in getting into a lengthy statement on how Peron felt, it was obvious. He just wordlessly turned about, and walked away.
The Red-haired Dog
((Ashton Tyler Peron) (1927)) Part Five
Looking beyond the cobblestone streets of New Orleans, out into the Mississippi, Captain Ashton Tyler Peron, now ninety-seven years old, perhaps thinking of his old ship, being turn-up for barrel wood, and wondering how old Ashley Walsh was doing, simply looked out upon the river as if he was staring through a glass window, as he hobbled on his painful gout leg, his right leg, along the dock’s edge. He had disregarded that year he kept her captive on his ship, only to admit, she was the prettiest Negress he had ever seen, or been with, it was perhaps why he couldn’t feed her to the sharks.
His hair was nearly as thinned out, as a one year old baby’s might be, fatter than a plump goose, and he had a bottle of red-haired dog in his left hand, a cane in his right, moseying along the dock way, a dark heavy long coat on, it was December, a black hat, taking a step at a time, drinking a gulp of the rum, at each pause.
He was blunt with God, likened to how he was with everyone; it was how he lived, choleric in temperament. He bent a little as his gout was hurting him, and he collapsed upon the top soil, next to the cemented walkway—as if he knew he was going to die. He died of dysentery, so the autopsy read.
Calamity with Composure
(Captain Ashton Tyler Peron; Judge Castro Montes; Ashley Walsh)(Havana, 1928)) Part Six
Ashley Walsh had lived in the shadows of a long shaking fever. It had killed several people from the docks of Havana every year. It was a dismal and scented evening. She walked the dock area, it was the summer of 1928, ghastly smells of the harbor lingered into her nostrils, dissipated throughout the pier area. It somewhat reminded her of those far-off days, when she was kept prisoner on Old Captain Peron’s ship.
Dressed in light clothing, she went and had dinner in Sir Godfrey’s mansion…as was her custom, she was now seventy-seven years old, and he was in his eighties. They had a light meal this day. (Godfrey, was at one time, nearly sixty-years ago, at one time the manservant to the Governor of Cuba, and through his dealings somehow acquired a small fortune, and a daughter, by Ashley Walsh, and not by wedlock rather by lust, for Ashley had no marriage view worth considering, but Godfrey nonetheless named her, Ashley Ann Walsh-Godfrey, not ashamed to give her his name, nor take his mother’s name away. That was back in 1875, she would have been fifty-three years old now.)
“Were you aware,” said Sir Godfrey, “Captain Ashton Tyler Peron had died a year ago?” (He had just found out for himself that very week.)
She drank some more of the wine; she was a hard woman, but not without emotions.
During her permanent status as a citizen of Cuba and resident of Havana, she became the busiest female Havana’s natural harbor, a maritime hub, dealing with sugar, tobacco, coffee and rum sales, and running Delia’s Inn, becoming one of the richest women in Havana, if not the whole Caribbean . No need to whore about anymore, although in the beginning, that is where she got her working assets.
She said, as if it was a passing thought, perhaps a dutiful idiom, “He helped make me what, or is it that, I am today, rich, I figured if that dumb clucks can own a ship, why can’t I own a business, and make that plural?”
“Well, he sure did hang around with an unruly lot!” said Sir Godfrey.
The room fell silent.
“Murder, I was clumsy at it, I had an ugly old man do it for me, kill a bulky old man called Josh, I was only in my teens then, that is my most hideous crime, well almost, Delia’s death included; my second crime, suffocation of my youth that one year in New Orleans, when I was a whore, but even Rosalina the once queen-bee of whore of the city, taught me.”
Godfrey pretended to listen, but did not raise his eyes. “I was never a wife though,” she added to her comments. “I was hardly fourteen when I slept with a man named Silas; I love him so very much, simple as he was, back in Ozark, Alabama on the Hightower Plantation, I loved him, I really did, I’m sure he’s dead by now.”
She stood up, walked out of the room, knowing good and well, she could say and do nearly whatever she wanted to, she had become rich enough. She also knew from experience, when you run out of money, you run out of friends, from that you make your priorities, depending on your needs, and in Havana, a single minded woman, needed both.
((Ashley Ann Walsh-Godfrey; Sir Godfrey) (1875-1928)) Part Seven
Marble Moons (the Poem)
They say the sky above
Are scattered with Marble Moons…
For those who are
Sincere and true—
That your love
Still is the same,
That your life pleased
Him, the most, as Lord and King!...
And you kept your faith
In Him; thus, those
Above heaven’s dome
Will someday bow down
On bended knees to thee…
How can I not be singing…!
By Ashley Ann Walsh-Godfrey
Ashley Ann Walsh Godfrey would have been fifty-three years old, in 1928, had she not died in 1887, at twelve years old; this day in 1928, her mother, Miss Ashley Walsh, in pacing in Sir Godfrey’s garden. Nothing could have prepared her for that shocking day of her daughter’s death, over forty years ago, but you would not have guessed it, by her equanimity at the time.
In the capital city of Cuba, law and order in 1887 was bleak at best, there was a constant drag on it, in the city of Havana, vagabonds, ill-mannered hoodlums, doing nearly everything as they pleased, everywhere, whenever, pert near right out in the open. It was Ashley Ann on her way home from school, when one old man, vulgar and drunk chased her into an alley; a pretty girl, a favorite in her class.
He had cornered her, now vomiting in the alley…two men brawling fifty-yards away, disorderly at every corner, at every nook; all cut-throats, seamen for the most part.
Who could be blamed for Ashley Ann’s rape and murder that day? To have her mother watch the kid, day and night was a second duty, and not fashionable for her, she never did, she never would have, consequently, anyone dare ask.
She was busy increasing her numbers and wealth, while the city of Havana, also got richer and richer. Gold, and goods, commerce was thriving, as was her Inn, while the natives were getting more hostile: ultimately, a person only has 100% of themselves to give—to any one thing, or several things however one wishes to slice up the pie of life, their life, no matter which way you slice it though, there still is only 100% of you, and there is no more. To Ashley these were the hard facts of life in Havana; she gave 99% of her life to what she valued —, respect, power, money, the high of the buying and selling and again I must add Delia’s Inn, and that one percent left, she gave to her daughter, and that was only a half percent actually, because her lover, Sir Godfrey, got the other half of the one percent. That’s how it was.
Sir Godfrey, on that scornful day (her father) had cried out to Ashley—his mistress for forty-years, “Your daughter is with God in Heaven now!”
“Yes,” she remarked, “let her be with Him, it’s too damn hostile down here for her anyhow.”
Night Waters of the Caribbean
((Ashley Walsh) (1929, year of the rats)) Part Eight
“There’s a time for everything under the sun…”
As the population increased in Havana—as it had on the other Caribbean islands such as: Jamaica, Port Royal, Saint Domingo, Hispaniola, and San Juan (Puerto Rico), everyone firmly having enough to eat, Ashley Walsh recalled (at least in the past), now sitting on a bench, looking out onto the night waters of the Caribbean—at a pretty twilight—so had the islands hostilities. Far to the left—but not too far, were three seamen, gawking at her; she glanced their way, whispered, but the wind carried the whisper, “They’re no different than sewer rats.”
The looks on their faces went berserk!
If the hands of Ashley Walsh had known what her mind was thinking, they would have wanted to be cut-off.
The consequence, and sequence, of a crowding city—perhaps not much different than a tree with its uncountable leaves, having to shed them to make room for more, one might conclude, as this being Havana, had its share of outbreaks, street fighting, domestic violence, child abuse, soaring infant mortality, psychosis, increased homosexuality, and hyper-sexuality, alienation, disorientation among the older public, ruthlessness, Black Sunday rippled through the United States and over onto the Caribbean Islands, commerce declined, as did skills (in 1929).
Among the tenant housing, remorseless fighting, squalling. People were living like cats and dogs, and some like rats, dominated and aggressive ones, and the most normal humans of Havana went berserk because of this.
Homosexuals made advances on juveniles of both sexes. All tolerated by the city’s officials. The city with its own crowded population, became hyperactive, hypersexual, bisexual, and in some cases cannibalistic. Hence, as the population increased, so did this unusual behavior, well, not all that unusual, although it was never far-off, and Ashley knew this, she looked to her left again, she knew this—now seventy-eight years old, there were now five fellow seamen grouped some twenty-feet from here, they crept up like bowlegged quails, she thought. Old Ashley Walsh just absorbed, and observed twilight, narrow it became, and then the five men had mustard-up enough courage, and energy, to do what they were thinking, not knowing what Ashley was thinking, she always had plan B. The old stone wall she was now sitting on, hands firm, palms down on the wall to her side, she simply gave herself a push with those two hands, and over she went, into the twilight waters of the Caribbean.