I recently wrote a short story for The Coelacanth Journal
The Journal was created by the fabulous artist Phoebe Blatton. She's amazing!!
It was a pleasure and I intend to turn this story into a full novel in the future. You can buy a copy of the journal in the link posted. I also have copies available for $5. There are fabulous stories and interviews by Phoebe Blatton, Bonnie Camplin, Duncan Carson, Owl Cave, Sally Cruikshank, Anne Guthrie, Neil McNally
There are also many past issues to enjoy and you'll be supporting art and artists by purchasing a copy...
“Maggie you ready back there? The crowds filling up.”
“Hold your damn horses Danny! I’m testing this batch of gin.”
“You been testin’ it for an hour now and the bands itchin’ to get started.”
“ Tell ‘em to fire it up, I’m ready, the junipers just right now. Make yourself useful and take it to the bar and tell ‘em to strike up ‘A good man is hard to find’”
Danny scurried to the bar and yelled “Sully, take this new batch of gin for the pips.”
Sully snapped back “I hope it ain’t gonna blind anyone, she ain’t usin the grain”
Danny whispered to the band “A good man is hard to find boys, strike it.” Turning to the mic Danny announced “Ladies and gents The Holiday Cocktail Lounge is proud to present its legendary hostess and mother of the best gin in all of New York MargOH! Channing”
“Hey kids, welcome to my blind pig. Drink up some of my tasty gin over there served by Mama Sully. Remember kids both good men and good gin are hard to find”
My heart is sad and I'm all alone
My man's treating me mean, I regret the day that I was born
And the man I ever seen,
My happiness is less today
My heart is broke, that's why I say,
Lord, a good man is hard to find
You always get another kind
“Get it closed! the bulls are comin!” Sully yelled
I dropped my microphone. Danny told everyone to hush as I rushed to the door up the stairs to the first locked door. I pulled the keys from my knockers, then up the spiral staircase to the second locked door and opened the door grille slot looking into the eyes of detective Duncan Carson.
“What you boys want?”
“Maggie let us in we’re looking for Jimmy Smalls.”
“Boys he ain’t here and I gotta lot of sewing to do down here”
“Maggie we ain’t here to bust open the joint.”
“Then meet me upstairs boys I’ll be right up. I don’t know where Jimmy is”, I replied, “Give me five boys.”
“Hurry it up Mags we ain’t got all night”, detective Carson squawked.
“Hey boys, what’s Jimmy the butcher done now?”
“I’m not sure Maggie, we thought maybe you’d know. There’s a truckload of beef hijacked off the interstate… left the driver dead.”
“Detective Carson, you know as well as I do that I know dresses, THAT’S my trade. I woke up this morning and Jimmy wasn’t in the bed. He’ll be back. He may be a small time crook but he ain’t no murderer. Plus he got a side of beef last week and barely got enough ice to keep it up.”
“When you gonna dump that small time butcher and go on a date with me?” he leered placing his hand above me against the wall.
“Only two things are gonna make me go on a date with you; one, is stop leanin’ on my pig joint and two you divorce your wife.”
Detective Carson grabbed my wrist and brought me in hard and close threatening to bring both me and Jimmy down if I didn’t pay up. I pulled some dough out of my brassiere and shoved it in his pocket.
Suddenly the door opened and in swooped the one and only Mamie Doneworthy and her entourage of art and literary dames Pippa Plumkin, Katie Meriweather and Alice Abernathy. A Swellegantly dressed trio that benefited from Mamie’s connections and substantial bankroll.
“MargOH! darling, the 21 Club was simply packed to the gills…OH! Detective how are you darling?” throwing a confused look my way “I didn’t even see you there.” Turning back to me she continued “So um, uh… Maggie, as I started to say I need a new hat for my affair this fine April evening.”
“Mamie, honey, we’re closed. I was just finishing up with the detective but of course I’ll be happy to help you.” I leaned into Carson’s ear and whispered “If you want any more dough outta me then I gotta go cause they’re gonna be spending plenty”
“Alright Maggie but you tell Jimmy I’m lookin’ for him” and he and the boys walked out the door.
“Darling what was all that unpleasantness? I’ll never know why you left Zeigfeld. Dress maker? Please…you can’t even thread a needle!” Mamie moved to the full length mirror and re-applied her ruby red lipstick, “That Carson is one strapping dick. I may have to pay him a visit at his precinct.” She glided across the store and down the stairs. “I must say you are looking divine in that lame gown darling. Let’s do a duet Maggie, I’ll tell Danny to play something peppy!”
The girls all kissed me on the cheek as they followed Mamie down the stairs. I slapped Katie’s patootie and she winked back at me with a sexy grin.
“Mamie, you’re off the cob, I gotta look for Jimmy.”
“Oh apple sauce! Look for Jimmy later”
“Sully will take care of ya! I gotta make sure he ain’t up to somethin crooked.”
I bolted the door turned and crossed my arms pacing the floor of the old dress shop wondering what Jimmy was up to now.
I met Jimmy Smalls after a performance of “The Zeigfeld Follies of 1926” when I performed right next to the one and only Miss Fanny Brice. I had been a Zeigfeld girl since 1921 but that night Miss Brice was not very kind to the gals and she demanded I be in the back line because I was too pretty and tall to be next to her. I decided I wasn’t going to be pushed around by anyone and last minute I took my space right next to Miss Brice and nearly ruined her whole performance. She was so mad. I wasn’t sure if she or I got more laughs that night. Well afterwards she and Mr. Zeigfield had a heated argument about my antics and I thought for sure I was a goner. Luckily I was his favorite gal so she never stood a chance. I exited the stage door to a thunderous applause and enthusiastic autograph seekers. “I’ll take you any day over that Miss Fanny Brice, I’m Jimmy” he said as he pushed his way through the crowd towards me. He had the loveliest mane of black hair and a seductive smile. I asked him to buy me a bite to eat. I must say I was smitten. By daybreak we had made love and already started wedding plans.
It’s been five years and we still ain’t married and lots of things have changed. Jimmy didn’t like my performing so he opened me this stinkin’ dress shop filled with dummies and lots of grey material for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. You know the lousy stinkers who started all this prohibition nonsense. So much for stayin’ proper. That’s when Jimmy got the idea of Holiday Lounge to cash in on everybody losing their inhibitions, it’s in the basement, and he even blew out the wall to his butcher shop so you can enter from both sides. We got the best pig joint in town, better than any uptown speakeasy!
I ran back down the stairs, through the crowd, up to the butcher shop and swung open the icebox door. I fell back and lost my footing, tripping down the stairs. I Stopped myself half way down and crawled back up slowly to see if what I had just seen was real. I opened the icebox door again and Jimmy was lying there with a meat cleaver in his head. I locked the icebox door in a slow panic and ran back to the bar, my mind racing. I slammed two bourbons from my private stock.
“What the hell Mags? You’re hittin the sauce hard. It ain’t going to be another night of washing you up again is it?” Sully asked
“What the hell are you going on about?”
“You don’t think I saw Jimmy in the deep freeze last night and you passed out over him. Mama’s takin’ care of everything… he’ll be outta here tonight”
“Last night? I don’t remember last night.” as I lay my head on the bar “I killed Jimmy?”, in a soft whisper
“I didn’t say you killed him but the way you were carryin’ on earlier about that truck load of beef I’m assuming you took care of it?”
“Oh! My god, my Jimmy. I don’t remember anything. Beef?”
“C’mon let’s do a duet Mags ” Mamie yelled
“I can’t right now Mamie, I got something to clean up” as I staggered through the crowd and back up to the butcher shop sobbing about my Jimmy. Then panic set in. What did I do? Why? For sure Carson would be back lookin’ for Jimmy and I was going to the slammer or on the lamb. I scoped the room out and noticed there was no stock at all. Where was the beef? Everything was gone, not even enough for a slugburger. I thought maybe we was robbed! Then out of nowhere a vision appeared before me. I threw both hands over my eyes and fell back into the icebox and peered out through my fingers.
“MargOH! You are going to pay for what you did”, Jimmy said in a ghostly tone.
“I didn’t do nothin’”, I screamed back
“Hahaha, Maggie but you did! You murdered me after I hauled in all that beef” and then he faded away
“What the hell’s all the racket up here Mags”? Mamie came up behind me
I pointed “It’s Jimmy”
“Where’s Jimmy, I don’t see him, c’mon old girl let’s do that duet before the band gets cold”
“Enough with the goddamned duet!!”
Ignoring me she pulled me back down the stairs and into the crowd by the bar. I grabbed my bottle of bourbon and took a long slug. The next thing I knew Mamie was dragging me on stage still yappin’ about her duet. I felt dizzy and leaned on the piano Jimmy was sitting there asking me what I was going to sing to him. I screamed and swung around smacking Mamie in the face with the bourbon, knocking her out cold. Danny held her in his arms “Get the dame some ice”, he yelled
“What the hell you doin’ Maggie?” Sully asked
“It’s Jimmy” I yelled as the girls ran over to Mamie
“Jimmy’s ghost is haunting me, he’s right there, don’t you see him”? I yelled to the crowd.
“Have another drink, MargOH!” someone yelled. Sully then grabbed me off the stage as the alert bell sounded.
“OH!, it’s the coppers back again, I gotta get outta here”
“Hold steady Mags, I won’t turn ya in”, Sully snarled as she opened the door and Carson barreled into the stairway.
“Where’s Jimmy? I got a description for the beef heist and he fits the bill”
“Dead, and she killed him” Sully pushed me into Carson
“Mother how could you? Turning to Carson “He is dead but I don’t remember killing anyone”
“I’ll take you to the body.” I staggered up the stairs grasping onto the rail so tightly that it splintered under my grip. A trail of blood ran down my hand. As we walked to the icebox I thought how could a Zeigfeld girl get herself to this point over a man. I swung open the ice box and it was empty, the body was gone.
“So where is he Mags? Carson demanded, grabbing a hold of me.
“She must have taken care of it. Right Sully?” “She told me she was going to take care of it”
Staggering up the stairs with an ice pack to her head Mamie asked “Maggie you loved Jimmy, you wouldn’t kill him would ya?”
“Mamie don’t go up there, she’s hallucinatin’ from all that gin” Danny begged
“We both loved him didn’t we Mamie?” I yelled and looked deep into her eyes “I know you two were going at it, maybe you killed him?”
“You’re insane! This has gone too far boys, it’s a joke! Jimmy get in here!”
“Oh yeah, it’s no joke to me! I saw the meat cleaver in his head. He’s been haunting me. Carson what am I going to do? Hold me” Carson grabbed my head and pressed me against him. I could feel his manhood rising in the suit I made him. He led me to the empty ice box and said.
“There’s no evidence Mags! I can fix this for ya if you treat me right.” He leaned into kiss me and that’s when I saw Jimmy standing in the ice box door. I grabbed Carson’s piece and pointed it at both of them.
“Jimmy what do you want from me? What do both of you want from me?” I yelled and closed my eyes
I heard Jimmy’s voice yell “April Fools Mags!” I heard laughter from every corner right as I began firing over and over again. When I opened my eyes and Jimmy and Carson lay mangled on the floor. Sully was limping back down the stairs yelling ‘It was an April Fool’s joke Mags” as she hit the floor. I ran down to her trying to understand what she was saying “It was a joke. It was a joke you dumb dora but now it’s the April Fool’s Day Massacre” as her head fell to the side and she took her last breath.
“I guess the jokes on you now ain’t it mother” I laughed insanely.
Mamie ran into the hallway screaming as Danny hit the floor in shock. Pointing my gun at her I yelled “Hey Doneworthy you ready for that duet now!” and before she could say anything I shot her between the eyes.
I made my way to the stage caressing the gun before I put it down on the piano. “A little Happy days boys?” and I sang
“Howdy gay times Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let's sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again”
“Cut, that’s a wrap!” Director Phoebe Buttonwood exclaimed! She ran to me before I could gather myself and said “Great job MargOH! This is going get you that Oscar!” The whole cast and crew gathered and applauded. A tear came to my eye as I said “Thank you to all of the cast and crew of “The April Fools Massacre” for making me even better than I usually am. I’m sure it was a dream to work with me on this film and please give a hand to Phoebe Buttonwood for such an inspired directorial debut after which I’m sure she will be a better director for having worked with me.” It’s not often you find a director that would take my suggestion to turn this subject matter into a musical” more applause.
“Now, let’s have a drink!” I shimmied through the crowd swinging my flapper pearls. I took a big swig of the bourbon old fashioned with extra cherries I requested and turned and yelled “Salut”
“And the Oscar goes to Oh... my how wonderful! MargOH! Channing for “The April Fools Massacre Musical”. The crowd jumped to their feet into a thunderous applause as Phoebe Buttonwood made her way to the stage. The reality of the moment dawned on the audience and a quiet swept over the room. Phoebe began to speak:
“This is a bittersweet moment for me and the world. I so wish MargOH! could be here to accept this and I’m sure she would be thanking you for making her an even bigger star with this award. She wasn’t exactly humble. MargOH! told me that playing herself in a film about Prohibition and it’s trappings was the role of a lifetime. I still can’t believe she’s gone and wish she had requested a glass of wine that final day. In MargOH!’s honor I have made it my mission to warn people of the dangers of Maraschino cherries. That’s why I am wearing this cherry colored ribbon and I will keep up the fight until they are banned from every cocktail and Shirley Temple made around the world. MargOH! would want it this way, she wouldn’t want another actress as good as her to choke to death from those devil stemmed time bombs! Please join me in the fight.” Phoebe grabbed a jar out of her purse, held it high and smashed it to the floor and passionately cried
“Say NO to MaraschiNO’s.”
The crowd jumped to their feet with thunderous applause. As Phoebe wept, she quietly added “For MargOH!” and exited the stage clasping the Oscar.
By MargOH! Channing