The Old Folks
((Untold Tales and Sketches of: “The Cotton Belt) (The Addendum Sequel))
((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 once 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 is?”
“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, Habana)) 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 Park, 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 travelling 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 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 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 babies 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; 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, some fifty-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 mothers name away. That was back in 1875, she would have been fifty-one 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 Rosella 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-one 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 thirty-five 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 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 ever corner, at every nook; all cutthroats, 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, and in Port Royal, and Saint Domingo, on 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-nine 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 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.
Fallen on the Hearth
(Rose Hills, Pick Ritt, Emma Hightower, Cara Smiley, A. Hood
Between Heaven and Hell
((Pick Ritt, and Rose Hills; 1917, NYC) (Part Nine))
A good part of the lives of southern people, I mean, those old southern folks, particularly, down in Ozark, Alabama, in and around the turn of the century—bear in mind, some women too, and especially the male negroes loved their whiskey, moonshine, that old so called, corn whiskey, with an alligator bite. That is to say they loved their whiskey and of course southern women, southern style women.
Between heaven and hell, on that little strip in between, called the surface of earth, the south was trying to put its self back together, in those far-off days, while a war in Europe was going on. The best and once, the finest Southern Plantations were becoming wrinkled with age; uncared for.
Yes sir, Pick Ritt an old man now, at the age of seventy-seven years old, filled that whole south with his womanizing legends and reputation. He had as a young man, ran after Emma Hightower, she was now seventy-two years old. Then he ran after Clara Smiley, she was now sixty-eight. Had you sat downtown on any wooden bench, in front of any store, bank or even in the park in Ozark, you could hear folks running their mouth, gossip flowing out of it like a bush fire—back and forth, all day and all night long, it was all about his drinking and girl happy dementia. Many a night he’d join the whooping and hollering in the local bars, piano bars, singing along. He owned one, once.
“That Pick Ritt, I be dog if he aint a case,” said Clara to Emma, sitting out on Clara’s porch.
“Here I was halfway to town this morning, or pretty near halfway to town, I had the buckboard and old Dan the horse, on my way to Hobby’s Store, when he jumped out of some bushes with a newspaper in his hands and jumped into the middle of the road, scared the daylights out of me and old Dan. It took me ten-minutes to calm Dan down and me also, to untangle the harness.”
“What did Youall say to him, thereafter…?” asked Emma.
“He was talking about that young winch in New York City, you now the one they call Rose Hills—the young one, I’ve read about her myself, he’s communicating with her I think, it’s as if he’s making a regular nest for her and him.” And they both chuckled.
Perfumes of Damascus
((1920, Pick Ritt and Rose Hills) (Part Ten))
She wrote Pick Ritt this sentence or two, having left Damascus, to meet him in London, a month from the date of the letter (Pick Ritt, being of the same age as Emma Hightower of Ozark, Alabama),
“Dearest Pick, it makes my mouth water lying in bed moving in adoration, in infinite kisses which is more divine than the perfumes of Damascus.” R. Hills, August, 1920
It was as if old man Pick Ritt, closer to eighty than seventy, fatter cheeked than ever, had had a long ongoing affair with Rose Hills, which he hadn’t.
Women of the Flesh; Rose Hills common enough among the laity, during the ‘Roaring 20s,’ but she was of the elite, one of the guardians of social and public morality, who’s duty it was to denounce carnality of the new age. She was born in 1897, thus, in 1920; she was cast into a whole new world with new vistas opening up to her twenty-three year old eyes, mind, and shapely body.
She tempted everybody, and tired everything, and found herself in every tabloid from Ozark, Alabama to New York City, and all throughout Europe.
She seemed to have grabbed the new generation for all it was worth, in living color. Nothing was sacred, taboo, men of the cloth, scuttling out of seedy hotels with her, struggling with their zippers, the wronged wives looking for her. Her urges, lusts and infatuations never ceased to grow, she denied herself very little.
Pick Ritt, a Harvard man, banker from Ozark, Alabama, richer than the Church of England, and older than Rose Hills’ grandfather took a liking for her. As we will see, his urge to possess her, or at least have her to equal his urge, was taking up much of his time.
When the Great War opened, in 1914, he became infatuated with Miss Rose Hills’ reputation, writing her letter after letter, seeing her in the newspapers as the rich little girl of Europe, whose family owned several pubs in London. She welcomed his letters, remarkable she thought they were, coming from such an old goat, with a poetic voice, and a lustful heart.
“You have made me perfectly happy by your acceptance of my devoted admiration for your qualities I have feasted my appetite on nightly, your charms and physical perfections.” P. Ritt, September, 1918
“I am satisfied that your old and pouting lips, hunger for me…awaiting you.” R. Hills, January, 1919
“I live in a state that longs to meet and have you, the delight of you; here also I am intense for expression…” Ritt, March 1919
About ten months later, January 1920
Pick Ritt’s sleeping was less and less, he spent a good portion of his night in lustful compositions, his prose speckled with dirty bits of verse…
Following his last letter, things seemed to go down hill; his hand writing had become more frantic and scratch-like.
In June of 1920, he asked to see her in September in Europe; he’d meet her in London, at Victoria Station.
On September 10, 1920, William R. Hills, met Mr. Pick Ritt, at the railroad station, a chaplain was with him, he told Mr. Ritt, face to face, “Your behavior, as well as my daughter’s has been most scandalous to our family name. A part of the proof of which I tell you here, my wife had to be put into an asylum for rest; as the investigation to my daughter’s death goes on. My wife was found to have several of your nasty letters, in her passion. Wisdom had been deprived her, and at the time of my daughters return to meet you, from Damascus, she killed Rose, beat her to death with a broomstick, just a week ago today. Yes, she is in an asylum, for the insane, where I will be tomorrow,” as he finished, he pulled a derringer out of his coat pocket, and shot Pick Ritt dead, right then and there.
Austin Hood’s Demise
((1922) (Part Eleven))
Old Sergeant Austin Hood, was so mean, as to still be living in 1922, at the ripe old age of ninety-six, in debt, modesty competent, he appeared to find enough income begging to support his eating and drinking, and told fortunes, to supplement whatever else he needed. He had no children, no wife, and no real place to call home—and a good case of spastic paralysis, in the shadow of dysentery.
He had eight cloth colored cards, the size of postcards, he charged a dollar to tell a person’s fortune with them. He had devised a schema; four of those colored cards were dark colors, from gray to black to browns. The other four colors were brighter, red, yellow, blue and green, lighter colors. One’s fortune was told by the colors they picked, and then he’d translate what the colors meant. Unfortunately, if you picked out all four darker colors (only being allowed to select four cards in total), you would get a bleak and gloomy fortune. One such person by the name of Mississippi Blue, a gambler in town, got a most unpleasant fortune from Hood, and he didn’t take kindly to the scholarship of Hood’s psychological evaluation, his future downfall —to be quite frank, he took it rather seriously, and that evening when he went to gamble, had lost nearly every penny he had, all but a few dollars of the once $400-dollars he had. He could hardly pay a week’s rent in advance and the room and board was three-dollars a day—
As the saying goes, there is always someone out there, worse than you, or as bad as you. Only in the most rudimentary sense did Hood bathe…on that Saturday night, a hot summer’s night, Blue paid a dollar for Hood to take a both, saying “I won $100-dollars with your corny like fortune,” consequently, Miss Nelly O’Day of the “O’Day Hotel,” heated water on the stove and filled the Zinc tub in the middle of the floor, in which three to four men usually bathed one after the other, in the same water—in turn, but being Saturday evening, only Hood was to bath, Blue came in through the back entrance, while Hood was taking his bath, ‘A good one,’ he mumbled to himself.
The quite man, mouse-like, just suddenly appeared from behind a door, consulted Hood, then pushed his head under the water, as if he was drowning a stray cat, then lifted the old man’s head back up above the water, deader than a doornail. And that was that. He assumed as he walked out the same door he had walked in through, his luck would change.
Trousers in Blue
((1923) (Part Twelve))
Stillwater Minnesota, 1920s (out near the O’Day Farm)
He stood in worn-out, faded but clean blue overhauls; he was renting out a room from Molly O’Day’s Hotel; Molly O’Day related to the O’Day’s in Minnesota (Stillwater, Mabel O’Day, born 1899 had married Gus O’Day, Mabel being originally from North Carolina, and related through her sister’s marriage, to the Hightower’s of New Orleans. Gus, being born 1890, and who had died in 1957; his brother being Shannon O’Day, born 1910, died 1967; Molly O’Day, being born 1885, and who had moved out of Minnesota, to live in Ozark, Alabama in the early 1920s, opened a boarding house, but the sign read, ‘Molly’s Hotel’ and Molly’s mother was Gus’ father’s sister).
Mississippi Blue, had got away with murder (born around 1880), just as Hood had got away with it a half century before—killing Corporal Dennis Smiley, along with a young Private and Sarah Franklin; now Blue was fifty-dollars richer, from taking what money the old man had left in his pants pockets, and had gambled that $50-dollars and made $1500-dollars, then invested it in a sawmill outside of Ozark, down by a lake, near Daleville, between Ozark, and Shantytown. Daleville being more like a town-let, with about four or five dwellings, no church, just an old sawmill by the lake nearby. He had invested with Molly O’Day, and was doing well now, a year had passed, and he was doing well, matter of fact, he and Miss Molly had a thing going ((she being about near forty)(about his age)).
He had turned his bad luck around, with that effortless fury he let out against Old Man Hood—his rawness equal to Hood’s; how true it is, one devil gone, one more to take his place. He didn’t even pause, never looking back at what he had done, his eyes red from drink and lack of sleep, he never even made it to Hood’s funeral.
So here was Old Hood, vanished, gone from the surface of the earth, from that in-between Heaven and Hell, narrow space, called the surface. His eyes closed in a wooden coffin.
It was a celebration for Clara Smiley, a day she waited for, for a long time. She attended his funeral, along with Emma Hightower. Her eyes lost, smaller now than they were back in 1864, when Hood had killed her brother Dennis.
She was going to re-roof, her kitchen, that day, but she didn’t, she stayed at the cemetery until sundown.
“He was for all purposes, a nameless person,” Clara murmured to Emma, “who would rise and dress and eat his breakfast, just to die in a sink tub one day, homeless, childless, wifeless, I wonder if Hell has its gates half open awaiting his arrival?” Then that day, a year ago, she saw a dog chasing a rabbit—she had been distracted, and he was once and forevermore forgotten—funny she thought, how bad guys are so quickly forgotten once they die.
Old Stone Bridge
((Mayor H.P. Mondale) (Part Thirteen))
The Map of Ozark, Alabama, shantytown, Goose Creek, and the Plantations
Beyond the bend of the Old Ozark Road, where there once stood Old Stone Bridge, now, there was no longer any trace of it, a vanished bridge that stood from the early days of the Civil War, it was the boarder between Ozark and Shantytown. It was where Old Amos Jackson was hung, and where Sarah Franklin was shot to death by Old Sergeant Hood, and where Old Doc Edwards one night rode like wildfire across it to find a home for Scip Josh Mason, Emma’s boy. Not much architect to it, unrecorded date for its construction. No one could remember who even built it. All that was left behind, when Mississippi Blue was hired by the city to tare it down, and build a new one, a sturdy one from wood at his sawmill, the summer of 1925.
All that was left was old stones, a skeleton that once encased a bridge, that went under a creek, that was used by Confederates as well as Union soldiers chasing one another during the Civil War days, and slaves were carried across that old bridge to get to the cemetery, to be buried in—often in, unmarked graves, dating back to the 1770s.
A bridge that Lee, passed, so legend says, and that nearly seventy-years, two generations of sons and grandsons with bare feet crossed over.
The bridge was owned now by the city of Ozark. And soon Shantytown would all but disappear, leaving them four houses out of the fifteen dwellings that now existed, and pert near, thirty when they build the stone bridge, in about 1859 or ‘60. But like old folks, things were changing, being replaced. Fresh tracks to new dwellings that kind of thing, “That’s how it is,” said Blue to the Mayor, “we have to change with the times.”
The new sheriff Ed Parker Jr., son to old Sheriff Parker (born 1829, died 1918), Ed was in WWI, fought between 1917 and 1918, and then had romped around Europe, a spell, now had been sheriff since 1921, now watching for a week, lumber coming by wagons and horse and mule back, for ten miles. Men working with lips full of snuff, until the last wagon arrived on the last day of the week, in Shantytown (he was born, 1899).
The old Negros that lived in and around Shantytown, and white spectators that rode by, all stopped—rabbit-like mules, to see the new bridge, it was like a big sunbonnet over a tin pail, the creek was no wider than ten-feet, and the bridge was twenty-feet wide if not wider, and thirty feet high if not higher, and Mayor Mondale (born around 1870), of Ozark, just stood there, appeared to look at nothing, to look at anything beside the ugly humongous bridge, he never stayed long. And he never looked back or up again at the bridge.
For long afternoons throughout the summer of 1925, old men squatting with their slow burning tobacco in their corncob pipes, sat by the creek looking at this huge laborious, shapeless structure, called a bridge, until someone had cleaned out his pipe one evening and—by an act of God, some old folks had said, the bridge burnt down. The old stone bride that was once there was rebuilt to its old glory, no one knew by whom, and no one cared.
A Soldier’s Choice
((Major Hans Schmidt; Corporal J. Abernathy; Lt Ambry Rosenbaum; Sergeant Shannon O’Day; Private Smiley) (1917-1919))
Walking the Trenches
((1918, France, WWI) (Part Fourteen))
If he wanted to he could have, if he really wanted to, but he didn’t hoard all the food, nor try to escape, he didn’t need to I suppose, so he figured. Because this was a soldier’s choice—nearly any night he could have escaped. He was a prisoner of war (POW)—now going on eighteen weeks, with soldiers of the other side who had been in those trenches going on, eighteen months. And he, oh yes, he knew an amnesty of some kind was in the makings. Corporal J. Abernathy didn’t know that, that absolution for all the killing that had went on for nearly four years between the Germans, and the multi national forces (the French, English and now the Americans), would be free of sin; that he’d be—all those combatants would be—now living, would be free to go back to whatever they were doing before they were sent off to fight a war in the French countryside, and shoot out of a dirt trench, to gain a foot of land, and hopefully a nation thereafter. Major Hans Schmidt was the POW, held by the multinational force. He was—by all means he was—waiting for his day of purification. And he knew that it would be over sooner than later. He never understood though, what Americans were doing over in a European war, I mean it was no national crisis for them. Why in heaven’s name get involved. Although France had told the United States President, if they didn’t, France would never forgive them. And somebody took that remark as the unpardonable sin, and one-hundred thousand Americans had to die, so France would continue to like them.
Hans had no chains on him, he was like an American pet, or butterfly, just something to look at, and get information out of, and he was more than willing to give it. But these few individuals, that were worried about Hans, perhaps more jealous, took it as a slap in the face. There was a General inspection due and everyone was more worried about that than a POW pacing the trenches, it irked the few; furthermore, there was some talk about a Sergeant O’Day receiving a decoration, having found his way back from the bombed out Village of Douaumont some months back, and the story that he gave—was horrendous, and he was receiving a medal, for that horrendous story, that he couldn’t prove one way or the other, but it sounded good. He was an Irish American, wearing a French Uniform.
Lieutenant Rosenboum, grandson to the personage on the Hightower Plantation called the Ghost back in Ozark, Alabama, and Private J. B. Smiley cousin to Dennis Smiley and Cara Smiley of Ozark, Alabama (J. B. from, North Carolina), along with Corporal Abernathy, all simply watched the Major walk freely—not knowing the ultimate would take effect soon—yet, amazed the General gave him the freedom to walk about without stinting, an officer no one saluted of course, he simply walked to and fro through those trenches at dark, like a stray cat, but the Major and the General knew.
((1918, France, WWI; Lt. Rosenboum, Major Yankcavick, Major Hans Schmidt) (Part Fifteen))
Major Hugo Yankcavick—relation to the Yankcavicks of Ozark, Alabama—had asked Lt. Rosenboum, “We need to know how long it takes a German to die, before the General Inspection comes.”
“I admit, a live German is some cases are valuable, and the General wants all the information out of Hans he can get, but one German looks just like another, we’ll kill him, and when the General Inspector leaves, we’ll find the General another pet!” said the Lieutenant to Major Yankcavick.
“He’s the General’s investment, remember,” said the Major.
“So we’ll siege the investment by tomorrow at sunset, and that will be that!” spoke Rosenboum, harshly.
“Well, as long as we don’t need a bugle or a firing squad and the Lieutenant-Colonel and the General know nothing, there is nothing to tell, they will think he escaped,” said Rosenboum.
Private Smiley overheard it all, listening, while leaning against a wooden pole holding up another crossbeam to the entrance to his dugout quarters, said, “He’s a POW, sir, this is murder!”
“A murder twice, if you say one word about this, soldier!” said the Major.
“He wants to go back to what he calls ‘The Fatherland,’ so he told me, as soon as this damn war is over.”
“He belongs to no man, he is man without a country, a spy, and a traitor, my grandfather called them, turncoats,” said the Lieutenant.
Comite’ de Ferrovie
“Private,” continued Rosenboum, “we are both from the south, your uncle or cousin wasn’t he in the Civil War (Dennis Smiley)?”
“So here you see the vast glorious burden of the German Empire with one less buggery.”
Private Smiley just shook his head, knowing whatever way he went with this, there was no defense, and they would say Hans still warranted a death sentence. And perhaps his fate was now more off balance than ever, it had already exhausted the Comite’ de Ferrovie, and the French Army, had they left the matter up to them, this argument would not be taking place, so the Major explained to the private.
“Go back to your dugout and clean your uniform, oil your rifle, check with your Platoon Sergeant, find your bed and don’t leave it until tomorrow evening, that’s an order,” said the Major.
“Justice is on our side,” said Rosenboum, “even for dead angels, so go!”
Private Smiley did as he was told, and the inspection took place, and as far as anyone knew, Hans had escaped, and there was an Armistice, that took effect, the following week.
(Or, ‘The Mate of the Soul’)
(1918, France, WWI; Hans Schmidt, Major Yankcavick, Lieutenant Rosenboum and
Private Smiley) Part Sixteen
When you are dead, the dust the body turns into produces a deactivated language—it no longer can make decisions, it has no volition. Although for a short period of time after death there are indeed invisible forces at work. In the Latin it is called ‘Anima’ or the soul, and around the soul there is moat, this moat is a zigzagging ring system, likened to Saturn’s rings, in that it has particles within those rings, with a great amount of structure, some of this structure is related to gravitational perturbations—meaning in a sense, it can change as need be over time.
But let me simplify this, the moat has some sunlight, the core of the soul gives the moat its direction, tells it what to do. In essence, the moat is really a passive agent, part of the invisible force. It is a heavier object than the core, and stronger than the forces outside of it, it cannot be jostled out of place by molecular collisions.
So this somewhat ghostly spirit pulls some strings in man’s existence, and for some odd reason, not designed for any specific end, but to the protection of the core; the moat did something unnatural, immaterial, concerning Hans Schmidt, it didn’t get the ‘die’ response—or message from the core of the soul, and propelled by its own momentum, overlooked what actually goes on in the world, and although the body of Hans was physically dead, his mind, spirit and soul survived, did not parish, he was now, part of the living dead; now living in the immaterial present, beyond physics and chemistry. Major Yankcavick, and Lt. Rosenboum, had buried him alive, in a coffin in a deserted part of the trenches, alongside the ones he was in.
In the special language of life, Hans was part of the dead world, as well as the living world, but that is really redundant. These of course were the last days of WWI, and the message had come that the battalions were going to be deactivated, and everyone sent back home. And so everyone was just waiting around to get their orders; Private Smiley, Lt Rosenboum and the Major Yankcavick, all three saw Hans wondering about the trenches at night as if he was a mummy. This spooked them, and it came to pass, questions were being asked throughout the company area, “Did you see Hans last night?” and “Whatever did happen to that guy…?” Questions, and more questions, the Major became afraid it would leak to the General, and hence, an investigation take place. So they followed Hans one night, all three, once seeing Hans, the Major took his torch and cast it upon him, wanting to burn him to smithereens. He appeared helpless, unknowing want to do, not feeling pain, not feeling anything, just as if he was lost.
“What is he hanging onto life for?” said the Major to Rosenbaum, a rhetorical question at best, then remarked: “I don’t believe in God, and I surely don’t believe in all this here hocus-pocus going on, he must had found a way to get some air, and got brain damage, and never died!” confused with his logic.
“That’s the problem with you Major,” said Smiley, “too much rational thinking, destroys the soul.”
He was an un-realizing being, thus, the Major took out his gun, walked up to Hans put it next to his head, where he figured his brain was, his body was scotched like charcoal, and he went to pull the trigger and as he did, Hans grabbed his hand, and the bullet went off, and through his head, and thumped on the other side, as it made its way through, into the mud beyond his skull, and somehow, the moat got the message this time, and he died, and the Major couldn’t get the hand released, and so he cut Hans’ hand off his limb, with his dagger, and that was a hell of a story he had to tell the General to make him believe, he was innocent of any crime, but he did, and was promoted for his bravery, to Lieutenant-Colonel.