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Posts Tagged ‘Republic of California’

Fong’s Part IV

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Writing on May 29, 2015 at 11:45 am

“Welcome, stranger. What’s your name?”

“Twosie,” he said.

“Twoseat what?” she said.

“No, Knupplebrow,” he said. Heifitz put a shot of whispey in front of him. Un-dosed, one notch above rotgut.

“Good to meet you, Twoseat No-Nipplebrow,” she said. “I’m Penny Onehole.”

“No, not Twoseat No-Nipplebrow. it’s Knupplebrow. Knupplebrow Twosie,” he said.

“Ooo, I like your name, honey, but say it again, real slow. I’ve mixed it up in my head. Too much opium in my popium, if you know what I mean,” she smiled, leaning forward to expose cleavage not yet spotted and leathery like old Laughin’ Sal.

“Name’s Knupplebrow. Twosie.” Frustration edged his voice like a rusty blade. “Knupples, you know, lipe – ” and he cracked his knuckles loud enough to stop Bimps at the piano, everyone in Fong’s front room turning to look.

“Ooh, right. Knuckles. Knucklebrow. Yes. Well, tell me, Knucklebrow Twosie, what brings you to Fong’s?” Penny smiled again, hoping to smooth away his rising anger with the hint of sexual intrigue.

“I’m looping for a girl,” he said.

“Ain’t we all?” Penny laughed, Heifitz and Bimps following suit, the laugh making its round through Fong’s front room with the same contagious, hazy release as a yawn.

A gong sounded, deep in one of the back rooms – or below the floor, it was hard to tell – and Fong arose in a cloud of smoke behind the bar. No matter how many times he’d done it, no matter that he’d shown her the mechanics of the trap and the smoke, it gave Penny the chills. Fong called it his Mystical Chinese Devil trick, saying it was just what Westerners expect of the proprietor of a back alley opium den.

Wreathed in smoke and staring right though Knucklebrow Twosie, Fong said, “You seek a girl, she is your sister, but you cannot find her because no matter how close you get – your anger leads you astray.”

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Fong’s Part III

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's, Writing on May 28, 2015 at 11:45 am

Fong had spotted her right away.

Thinking back now, she saw the parallel: here she lounged on a stool at the bar, watching the door and seeing this squat brute with the thick wrists walk in. Just as Fong had spotted her all those years ago, from behind the bar where he had been explaining the finer points of Chinese Alchemy to the bartender, Krauty Frankle. Krauty hadn’t been in favor of alchemical additions to the drinks; not because he objected to doping the customers, but because he objected in principle to all Chinese philosophies. “Inefficient,” he would grumble.

Fong had been concerned for Penny, seeing at once her bleeding feet and torn nightgown. He whisked her into a back room where he spent hours personally removing glass from her feet and cleaning the wounds. He gave her bitter, disgusting, teas to drink. When Rivard’s men had come looking for her, nobody at Fong’s had seen a red-haired, green-eyed thirteen year old girl. Fong ran a tight ship. His teas and herbal medicines brought Penny to full health, even as the complimentary (at first) opium he gifted Rivard sank its hooks into the pimp.

Knucklebrow Twosie arrived at the bar and Penny Onehole’s reverie burst like an overripe pomegranate, which is to say it crunched and appeared to bleed.

“Whispey,” Knucklebrow said.

“Beg pardon?” said the new bartender, Heifitz McNabb. (Krauty Frankle had died two years before, the victim of a sudden and mystifying alchemical explosion in the sub-sub basement, an accident Fong described as, “Entirely un-Chinese.”)

“Whispey, neat,” said Knucklebrow.

A split second passed before Heifitz nodded, smiling, the perfect curls of his moustache betraying nothing of his inner amusement. Penny knew they’d chuckle about it later, but for now she fixed her eyes on the newcomer and said, “Welcome, stranger. What’s your name?”

Fong’s Part II

In Fantasy, Fiction, Writing on May 27, 2015 at 11:45 am

Penny was lost when she found Fong’s fifteen years ago.

Her drunken father had decided that dragging her out here to the untamed West was a good idea, on account of the huge Mormon settlement in the valleys to the East of the Bay. He wanted more than one wife, he’d confided to Penny. She hadn’t bothered to ask what was wrong with the one they’d left behind.

Upon arrival, he’d decided he wanted one less daughter. Selling her had been a simple matter of a meeting in a tavern near the docks in Oak Landing, and soon Penny awoke in a dingy room that stank of piss and gin, being tarted up by a girl not much older than herself who said, “Rivard’s got the calamity. If you don’t want it, better take it in the ass so you don’t get pregnant.”

Penny ran from the room, bouncing down the hall and stairs like a frightened jack rabbit – knocking a scraggly-bearded man ass over teakettle – into streets choked with mud, horseshit and worse. This place looked nothing like the pleasant village of Saint Raymond where she’d fallen asleep the night before: gone were the blue skies over golden brown hills dotted with Oak and Bay Laurel. In their place were a mix of shanties and palaces in a stinking, choking smog.

Shouting men were chasing her. She ran and ran, her bare feet aching and bleeding from a bad stub and a twisted ankle, then broken glass. Unclear thinking and desperate terror sent her in search of the docks: stow away on a boat … or drown herself. Not knowing her way and hearing her pursuers gain on her, Penny dashed toward the masts she could see in the distance — but found herself trapped in a blind alley. Turning to retrace her steps, she saw a sign that hadn’t been there when she’d run in:

FONG’S
Opium Dreams Come True Ladies For You

Punctuation could have helped a great deal, but then Penny might not have stepped inside.

Fong’s

In Fantasy, Fiction, Fong's on May 26, 2015 at 9:17 pm

Knucklebrow Twosie had never been seen in Fong’s before.

Not that there was any great whispering when he walked in. Most of the clientele were in a state of hazy mental undress, too deep in their cups or pipes or kinks to notice. Because, after all, Knucklebrow Twosie was as new to Fong’s as he was to the street, the city and the Republic itself. There was no reason for anyone to take much note of him.

The one person in the room who did see him clearly was Penny Onehole, whose name, while ultimately misleading, nevertheless held enough mystery to keep drunkards coming back for another crack. Penny didn’t like drink, on account of her father. She didn’t like opium, on account of her pimp, Rivard, now deceased, whom she blamed for getting her stuck in this fog-wracked hell. Penny didn’t like that other smoke, on account of it got her fatter than she should be at age twenty-seven, ahem. She had a lot of tricks to make the Johns think she was three sheets to the wind, and not a drop of liquor had passed her lips in fifteen years.

What she saw when Knucklebrow Twosie walked in was a man of a bout five feet, four inches in height, his cap pulled down to his eyebrows. Those thick wrists might mean a thick cock, but she didn’t much care either way. He looked like everyone else who came into Fong’s: lost.

But … something about his jaw, the angle of his head, looked familiar. Penny Onehole suppressed a shiver and smiled at him through the smoke. There was a quota to fill, after all. He looked like he’d do nicely.