Published on Wednesday, February 3, 2010
By K.S. Riggin
Yep, I was a saloon girl. Get that smirk off your face.What's wrong with being a saloon girl, anyway? The men treated me kind of rough on occasion, sure. Sometimes they tossed me over their shoulder in a
Big Hand Pete was the boss of the place. He was mostly a regular of mine. He was a real good looker, and partial to me, so I had it better than some. I suppose I should even have been happy.
But it's a funny thing that when a woman gets older, what made her happy at eighteen, just doesn't pull its weight at twenty-four. So, I started thinking it was time to move on. Women were scarce in Wyoming then, and saloon girls could get married, and go off and have a bushel of kids.
Of course, I wanted Big Hand Pete to ask me to marry him, but I knew he never would. He'd told me often enough that he wasn't the marrying kind.
That's why I started making eyes at Sam. Sam wasn't a regular. He was one of the miners. When he came in, he always had money to spend. He would drink a few, and then buy a girl for an hour, and then he'd be gone again, and we wouldn't see him for months. But, I could tell that he was lonely. He talked. Not all of them did that, you know. Sam was kind of special.
I remember that day -- the one that changed everything -- like it was yesterday. "Hey Sal," the bartender called out. "You gonna sit there all day nursing that drink?"
With a sigh, I rose up and climbed the stairs of the stage, knowing it was time for me to sing. I ran through a couple of the simpler songs, and did my little dance for the men.
Pete was counting out change, but he took time to give me an eye. I knew he was signaling that he wanted me to join him after the show. I nodded, and continued my song.
Sitting on my saloon bar stool
Waiting for a man to ask me to dance
And kiss my sweet, sweet lips...
That's when I saw old Sam come in. He had his miner's cap pulled down low over his eyes, and he was walking with a limp he hadn't had the last time. He took off his hat, and nodded his head in my direction. He was asking me to escort him upstairs.
I gave him a smile and a faint nod. I was mighty happy to oblige the man. I had decided that I was going to wrap him around my future.
I continued my routine, and ignored the glower in Pete's eyes. He didn't own me. He'd just have to wait his turn.
When I finished my stage work, I moseyed on down to the barstools, and leaned a little on old Sam. It didn't take much for him to fall right in with my plans. His slimy lips were soon sucking on my skin. I giggled and wiggled just right. In a moment he was ready to go upstairs.
Sam said he'd hit it big. He was loaded with cash. He grabbed a bottle, shoved down a wad of bills onto the counter, and yanked me up with a jerky lunge forward. Smooth as molasses, I glided with him, molding my body to his.
"Wait, a minute," Pete's voice boomed out. "Tell me more about that strike of yours, Sam."
Pete was not usually that loud. I looked up to see if he'd been drinking, but he was sober as a skunk. I knew he wasn't jealous. He and I had an agreement about business. What was cooking in his brain?
Sam was too far-gone with the juice to be suspicious. He stopped, and turned us to face Pete. "It was a big one this time. And, I been thinkin' a lot about the changes I plan to make with my life."
"Changes?" Pete and I said at the same time. I wondered if we were both thinking the same thing. Exactly what kind of changes did Sam mean?
Neither of us had to ask. Sam was glad to open up. He sat down in a chair, and pulled me into his lap.
"Yep, been lonely too long out there in my claim. When I left the cabin I spruced it up a bit, and now I'm plannin' to get me a wife."
He hugged me tight, and delivered a wet smack on my lips. I was used to the smell of alcohol, but his unwashed teeth were a little hard to take.
I wiggled a bit in old Sam's lap, and draped my arms round his neck. Sam grinned happily, and saddled me with another kiss. I dropped my hand to his chest, and sank it beneath his shirt.
I looked up, surprised by the sound of Pete's voice. Where had that harshness come from? His face had grown dark with anger. He was probably worrying about having to replace me with someone else. Men don't like having to make changes, I've noticed -- not unless they're the ones making the decision about it.
I waited for Pete to speak his mind, but I didn't stop my stroking of Sam's chest. I wanted to keep him hot and ready.
"Sally, don't you have another round to sing?" Pete growled like a puma, ready to pounce.
I'd just finished the afternoon's performance. It puzzled me why Pete was sounding so annoyed.
I smiled at him, showing my even, white teeth that everyone always admired, and I winked flirtatiously. I thought that would do the trick. Its intent was to let Pete know that Sam was not about to start playing cards. I could tell from the feel of him that Sam was only interested in going upstairs.
"Damn it, Sally, didn't 'ya hear me. Get up on that stage!"
Pete had risen up, and was pulling me off Sam before I could get a word in. I didn't even have time to get my feet underneath me before he was yanking me into a standing position. I started to fall, and Pete tossed me over his shoulder.
"Sorry, Sam," Pete said, before the miner could say a word. "Gloria over there can take care of your needs. I'm retiring Sally."
Sam was probably eyeing Pete's pistol, and thinking about the fact that he was weaponless. It was a rule of Pete's that only he and the bartender were allowed to be armed in the saloon. Whether it was that, or the fact that Big Hand Pete happened to be one of the fastest draws in Wyoming, I don't know, but Sam didn't argue.
Meanwhile, I was hanging upside down, and mad as a hive full of bees when a grizzly sticks his paw in. How dared Pete treat me like that! I had just gotten Sam to the place I'd wanted him. The offer was in the air. The miner had been mud in my hand, soft and ready to form into the bricks of my future!
"What do you mean, you're retiring me? You can't do that..." I sputtered, kicking my legs against Pete's chest.
Pete's hand slapped my buttocks. I cried out, but not in pain. My skirt and slips offered more than adequate padding. Still, I was so mad at Pete's treatment, I would have pulled out his six-shooter and aimed it at him, if I'd been able.
The men in the saloon had all begun laughing and hollering. I didn't know I still could, but I felt my face turning red with the first blush I'd worn in years.
"All right, Sally," Pete snarled angrily. "Don't you go expecting me to get down on my knees to you, woman, 'cause I ain't gonna do that."
Pete was lowering me to the ground, but I had been shocked into silence by his words. I was no longer fighting his grip.
"I ain't gonna share you, Sally. And if Sam here, is thinking he's gonna to steal you away, he's wrong. I ain't gonna let him do that. So, I guess that means I gotta marry you, Sal."
It wasn't the way proposals were supposed to be dealt, but South Pass City wasn't exactly Paris, France. And by that time, my protests had all sputtered away. When Pete's lips met mine, I wasn't even bothered by the catcalls and hoots of the men.
Pete hired a preacher the next day, and someone put up white bells in the saloon. Old Sam chipped in a sack of gold dust, and bought us a real wedding cake.
In a store-bought dress that Pete bought me, and with fresh flowers in my hand from the preacher's yard, I married Big Hand Pete.
We've been happy ever since, and I have me that bushel of younguns I wanted. But, I got nothing to hide when I tell you, that I used to be the saloon girl who sang on that very stage.
K.S. Riggin dreams in stories and teaches second graders when daybreak hits. During evenings, weekends, and vacations, she transposes alternate realities into words and scenes. She writes novels, but keeps a portfolio of short stories and poems on her personal website. Three of her short stories have just been published in the November issue of Spectacular Speculations. Another story will be included in the Farspace2 Anthology. Alien Skin Magazine has just agreed to publish two of her flash fiction pieces and a fiboncacci poem in Feb/March, 2010.