Story: “TOWN WHORE”

By: Jerry Mullins 

Silhouette of a woman on a street corner at night

Well just about everybody has heard that old saying, “Nervous as the town whore at a church picnic”. Now I can tell you about that, because it happened to me. I know all about that situation.

I went over there thinking it was an AA meeting, because they’ve done me a world of good. Foy told me about it and gave me a ride over there. A lot of town people call him one of the town drunks, but he has been good to me. But it turned funny for me right from the start when we walked right through the main part of the church to get to the door leading outside. It made me remember all those times I had to go to church as a kid, and then ride home with a family that right away started arguing about something, almost anything, then would have these big loud fights all Sunday afternoon. Maybe it was a good thing my Dad worked away and only came in on the weekends. That was part of the problem. I figured back then I didn’t want to live like that, and I never have.

We got to the picnic ground out back and right away I go to myself “Oh, my God do I have to sit through all this just for a picnic.” The new preacher was standing up front like he was ready to preach, and me hoping not, and all these nice-dressed town people turned around and saw me and some of the mouths almost dropped open and some of the older ladies’ eyes narrowed down to a mean-looking slit although they tried to hide it. A lot of hiding goes on in this little town. But the preacher was just introducing himself, being new to the church, and that was a relief. He was a fairly big man, with short curly blondish hair you don’t see around here much, and talking a mile a minute, and it was plain he was enjoying himself. His face was kind of red-flushed like he had been a drinker like so many of the men I know.

After a while the people seemed to warm up to me a little, and not so many mean looks were coming my way. It maybe helped I wore my nicest dress, the one I wear to the AA meetings. A couple of my customers, as we will call them, finally relaxed a little and came by and to hide it they talked first to Foy about the weather or fishing or something, then said “Hello” to me. They all said something nice about the way I looked and I could see them turning their face away from where their wife was sitting as they said it, mostly with a little gleam in their eyes. I could tell I would have a busy week coming up.

Pretty soon it was time for the food to be served. All these people had brought plates of different kinds. I had never seen so much food in my life and for sure most of the people did not need any more weight on, especially the ladies. It was the type of food you would not usually do at home, some with a note on the platter saying “Fresh out of ‘So-and-So’s garden.” It was real homey, and I started to feel comfortable.

As I moved down the serving line of tables then it was my turn to be amazed and have my mouth drop open. Right there serving food as big you please was my old friend Mandy dipping up food and chatting right along with everybody who came through the line, just like she was running the show or something. I had not seen her in a long time, since we used to run across each other doing what we called “Ladies’ evening work” up and down the river towns all through the middle of the state.

I didn’t say too much to her, and didn’t let on I even knew her. She gave me a big smile and and a wink when the people near me in line were not looking, and said, “I will come around to where you sit down to eat so we can talk.”

I was so nervous and rattled by then I didn’t know what to think. Foy noticed I seemed a little uneasy. .

“Is anything wrong, do you need to leave or something?” Foy asked me. “You seemed to be doing just fine.” I told him I was alright, it was just a lot to take in when I was not expecting to be in this crowd of people.

Mandy came over to where I was sitting as she ended her food table work, like she did not care what the people thought of her coming over to talk with me.

Mandy got me relaxed just as soon as she sat down. Then I heard why, and I was even more amazed.

“I am the preacher’s wife,” Mandy said, “we’ve only been married about six months and so far it is working out just fine. Let me tell you how it happened.

“I met him one evening while I was walking the State Capital grounds down there in Charleston, right near the river across the boulevard, with that beautiful gold dome of the Capital lit up and shining. I was walking with another girl I think you know, Linda, because it was dangerous as it got dark.

“So along comes these two well dressed men, looked like business men, and they fell into talking with us, one of them saying he didn’t get into the city much, working as he did in a county way up north in the state, so he did not know much about where to go or what to do. The other one was younger and better looking, with kinky little blonde hair, and I took a shine to him right away, either with or without a business arrangement would be alright. So Linda and I said we could show them the way to a couple of places on the way back to our hotel. Their eyes got big and they both lit up like a Christmas tree when we mentioned “hotel”, and we knew we had a couple live ones.

‘We started walking the four or five blocks back to the hotel area. Turns out Linda had a room, but I did not since I had a little place over in the west end I did not usually take people to because the nosy neighbors would call the police. Linda and I decided to use her room since it was one of those suites with a big room in front and a bedroom in back, with a bathroom for each.

“After a drink in the hotel bar we made arrangements and headed up to Linda’s room.

“ And BANG! no sooner we are in the door with some clothes dropped on the floor, and two plainclothes policemen are at the door, looking real serious.

“’All of you have been under observation since you were up on the Capital grounds,’ one of them starts up. ‘This has been a priority to stop the prostitution up there, so we have a very active operation to keep out of town people safe and out of harm’s way. You two gentleman will have to come down to the station with us. As for you ladies, stay right here, don’t leave this room. A policewoman will be by in a few minutes for your action.’

“As soon as they are out the door and Linda and I are dressed, we poked our head out the door and didn’t see anyone in the hallway or hear the chime of the elevator door opening. In a flash we are down the stairs at the end of the hall and walking out the rear basement door to the street behind, looking like two very nice ladies, with Linda carrying a shopping bag that had all of her clothes in it. We were hoping if a policewoman came by in a cruiser she wouldn’t notice us.

“Turns out the older fellow was a high-up county official from up there wherever he came from, and the one I was interested in was a preacher. None of the names were used in the newspaper the next day.

“I felt so bad about all this I went by the jail the next morning to check on him. And there he was, at the front desk making his bail with a bail bondsman. He was a little down in the mouth, but generally alright. We kept in touch. He would come by my little place over in the west end, as sad as it was, and said one time, ‘You deserve better than this. You have a good heart.’

“That is how it started, and here I am. And I am glad to see you. But I won’t try to say you should do anything like I have done.”

And right along in there as she finished talking, my head was spinning and my mind was racing, about what all this means to me. From ladies’ evening work to being a church’s “First Lady” as the people like to call them was just too big a jump for me to understand right off .

Then it all ran through my mind in a split second how I got to be where I was. From the time Daddy pushed me out of the house when I was seventeen for staying out too late and being too loose with the boys in town, and bringing shame on the family. Kicked me out with nowhere to go. I was out on the street and staying up all night in the gas station carry-out until this older fellow, Foy, a town drunk some people said, figured out what happened and let me stay with him and his old Mother. He understood and was good to me, never touched me. I dropped out of school, never went back, after I was out of the house. Foy found a little house cleaning work for me but I was never good at it. Some of the older men customers would pass me a little cash when their wives were not looking, saying “Take this until you get on your feet,” and then later started to expect a little something. And then their friends would do the same. It went on from there.

I didn’t say too much to Mandy when she finished talking. She went back to her job helping with the picnic. I saw her smiling as she walked around talking to everybody. I was happy for her. But right then, I decided I was going to stick with what and how I was, and not change a thing, at least for now.

A little later the preacher came by where I was sitting and said, “Hello, I am fairly new here, I guess about the same as you. Mandy told me she had a chance to spend some time with you, and she knows you from another connection. It would be wonderful to have you over to the house for a visit.” He was smiling his preacher smile as he said that, but I saw a hard glint in his eyes as he talked, the smooth words not matching the piercing eyes I saw. I have seen that look in men’s eyes, and sometimes it is dangerous. I got a sick feeling in my stomach as he said the words. I worried about what Mandy was up against.

I decided again, right then and there, I was not going to change a thing I was doing.

The sky had turned darker, and it looked like a big storm coming in. I got ready to leave, thinking, “The good Lord certainly knows when and how to get me out of bad situations.” I guess being around church people gets you to thinking like that. But I don’t know.

END

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