I felt a shudder, a shiver, a quiver in my body with small goose bumps forming on the skin throughout my fleshy surface, not unlike a small boy when finishing peeing in the public pool, the tub, or anywhere for that matter! In my case, it wasn’t that or even the exciting lecture on the establishment of the National Bank and how money is created being delivered by Dr. Young. No, it was remembering an early morning conversation Nanna Fuller and I had a few years before. Why, in the middle of this lecture should this consume my thoughts now?
Perhaps, just perhaps, it was looking with appraising eye, shielding my thoughts, suppressing any inclination to betray or even hint of betrayal of the secret I now held concerning Dr. Young and he of me which led me to that other time when I became a keeper of the most delicate and deeply held confidences of my life. Now, an outsider, a former client, held my most deeply guarded secret and I only hoped he was discreet enough not to use it against me or reveal it to Will. I know I will retain his in the strictest confidence and remain blind to what I knew and saw.
Bonnie or “Nanna,” since Christmas when Charlie and Will both called her that, waited patiently while I took several deep, long breaths to ease my fretfulness, calm my overwrought mind, but when she did speak, I was left aghast, almost overwhelmed with emotion!
“Jay,” she said softly, soothingly while reaching across the table to clasp my shaking hand, “I’ve had a very restless night, agonizing over what I knew I must do, but dreading it, wondering if you’ll hate me forever, but I finally reached the conclusion I must do what I gotta do, watching you do what you do to provide for Will and yourself. You already know I was in the same profession, the oldest on earth; what you don’t know is who the angel of the evening who rescued me and so many others, was my best friend, May- your mother!”
My heart skipped, a lump began forming in my throat and tears formed in great rivulets flowing and cascading their way down my weary cheeks, dripping off of my chin, landing on the table and our hands. No words formed on my lips to acknowledge, deny, or express dismay and anger or reply! Instead of shame or embarrassment, I was overwhelmed with sadness for Momma, Daddy, Bonnie, and the number of unfortunates Momma rescued from the abusers, the drug traffickers, and pimps who cheated their young ladies and rent boys! I’d been exposed to those vagaries of society’s sewers, albeit vicariously while riding in fine limousines to cultural affairs, to know they were a continuing source of harm and death to those of us in the pleasure business and was thankful for the type of courtesan I am and the protections and support that goes with it.
Momma and Bonnie became the closest of friends, companions of like spirit, and Momma’s apartment became a refuge from a stormy sea for those needing safe harbor and a secure berth for their weary bodily ships and tired souls. All residents, temporary and otherwise, pitched in to help pay the rent, utilities, and food, but Momma never insisted. She would’ve helped them no matter what! As she relayed to Bonnie one time, “I was young, homeless, and had to become streetwise damned quick; it’s the least I can do for others when I had no one to do it for me.”
The help with the rent and living expenses afforded her the opportunity to “stash the cash” and make a down payment on our house here, away from the big city, becoming a place of solitude for her to retreat to when the occasion warranted. She planned on living here when she retired and was making plans to do so, but it came sooner than anticipated and from an unexpected quarter. As much as she cautioned the young ladies and men living with her and working the trade not to fall in love with a “john” or client, she did and he, head over heels, ass-over-applecart, with her!
Daniel Boulton (Daddy) was an accountant and one evening decided to risk some bucks for a night of pleasure. Fortunately for him, and eventually Momma, Will, and me, he happen-chanced upon Momma working the streets. They started dating in her off hours and he convinced her to retire. They settled here, where he picked up an accounting job and she became a housewife. It was a different life for her, but one she relished and grew in. The transition was much easier than she anticipated since the man she loved, loved her with such great intensity, that her former life made no difference to him or ever would. Daddy could’ve cared less what Momma did for a living before she met him and was thankful every day for her presence in his life. He loved her and the devil could take the hind-most. No children appeared immediately in their life, but the doorbell would often ring in the middle of the night and some lost soul would be admitted for refuge and rest. If it ever concerned him, he showed it not; it was what Momma did and that was fine with him.
“About two years after May retired,” continued Nanna, “I had a real nasty experience with a ‘john’ and ended up in the emergency room. I had no one else to call, so I summoned my best friend. She and Danny drove to Milwaukee and almost flew into the emergency room seeking me. After I got patched up and paid the bill, with Danny’s help, May announced I was going to retire and move in with them. When I balked, Danny got real insistent and I ended up in what is your room now.”
Momma and Daddy helped Nanna find part-time work, paid for part of her tuition to nursing school, and she became (as she so adroitly put it) a “professional working lady of a different sort.” She met her husband, Le Roy (my middle namesake) one afternoon in the emergency room when “the damned fool accidently fired a nail gun into his foot.” As messy as it was, it didn’t deter Le Roy from flirting with his nurse and insisting on a date. One date led to another and soon they were married and on their way to raising a family. He never asked what she did for a living before she became a nurse and she never told him!
“The three of us, Danny, May and I had our secrets and we kept them.”
Her family was almost grown when I showed up on the scene across the street. Nanna laughed recalling, “I can remember how excited they were and how anxious Danny was. He was a ‘helicopter’ husband, always hovering over May, ready to shield her and protect her. When you popped out, he was almost overwhelmed with joy. It didn’t change much when ten years later, Will made his appearance!”
I remember well how Daddy reacted, but he was much older then and so was Momma. As much as they loved Will, I was the one who most often cared for him (willingly) and loved him dearly. I still do, willing to sacrifice anything for his welfare!
We sat a moment, sipping our tea, contemplating and cogitating, when Nanna broke the silence. “Will, you now know the family secrets; I don’t think things have changed much over the years in the business except for the fees. If I may be so bold to ask, how much do you charge?”
I smiled at her, knowing I could hold nothing back now, but also at her inquisitiveness. I slowly, patiently explained my salary each week, the various benefits with it, the requirement for random drug testing and monthly checkups by the company doctor, and the system of tips through which I was rewarded for my services. Her eyebrows raised in amazement at the amount of money gentlemen would pay for my escort and dating service, but she withheld her comments. I explained we were more courtesans rather than just a quick toss in the sack, trained in the finer aspects of service, the fine arts, cuisine and dining, along with wine selection, and how we researched each date before we entered into the agreement.
“I don’t work the full three days every week. Sometimes just one evening while there may be a week or two or three I have no engagements, as you well know from attending to Will. However, it is not unusual, if I have a very good week and perform quite well, for me to bring home two to three thousand dollars.”
She whistled softly through her teeth and inhaled deeply before commenting, “Jay, you must possess a talented and prize ass to draw that kind of money. In my day, a hundred bucks a night was a great deal and that was with all of the trimmings, so to speak.”
I grinned back in embarrassment, but yet prideful in her praise – coming from an experienced but retired lady of the evening was quite a compliment.
“Honey,” she warned, “you are swimming in a sea of predators; human sharks that’ll gobble you alive, leave your parts to drift as flotsam on the tide of life, and care not for you as the caring soul you are. Protect yourself, learn from every date, remain alert and aware of your surroundings at all time, and, most of all, prepare yourself for the day you can no longer work. Do as your Momma and I did, set aside your wealth and use it judiciously to enjoy your life!”
We heard Will stirring around in his bedroom so we brought our conversation to a halt and changed the subject matter to something more inane. Because she was such a good listener and now just as much involved in the business as me, I slipped her an extra hundred bucks. Bonnie can use it; although her house is paid for, Le Roy didn’t leave a great deal and her widow’s pension isn’t that great either.
Over the next couple of months, Nanna and I had many long chats. I found her a source of comfort, wise advice, and a willing ear whenever I’d get a bit distressed. She encouraged me to purchase a medium-sized floor safe for my closet, giving me a place to “stash the cash” as she so adroitly put it; suggested I begin purchasing U.S. Savings Bond for Will and me; take out a straight life insurance policy and an investment life policy naming Will as the beneficiary should anything happen to me. The investment life policy began an annuity payment for life to me at age sixty-five or to Will immediately if I failed to reach that age.
“Stay away from risky investments or anything which would draw attention to you. If you should be in another city, stop in a jewelry store every now and then and pick up a diamond ring, ear rings, necklace, anything that is convertible into cash someday. Jewelry may not pay any interest, but it’s always a valuable commodity. May and I never made enough to set aside, except for this house May bought, so take care of yourself and Will. In the future, you can begin doing some property investment, if the market and all is right,” she advised.
Nanna’s advice was good, sound, advice and I heeded it. I was having an excellent spring and Easter Holiday was more than great for some reason! The only raising I did that Holiday was my pecker and my dates seemed more than satisfied. Doc Henderson told me, confidently when we had my performance review, my client satisfaction rating was so great, there was a waiting list for me. Confidence boosted almost to the point of over-confidence, I just knew somewhere, sometime, a little rain would fall or the shit would hit the fan!
It was late spring, before school was out and Will and I just finished our supper and were beginning to work on our school work, when there was quick rap on the kitchen door and Nanna Fuller bustled in, all out of breath, and sounding desperate.
“Jay and Will, she sputtered, “I may have to quit and you’ll have to find someone else to help out.”
Before I could close my mouth from the surprise announcement, leaving me flummoxed, she continued, “Clyde just got deployed to Afghanistan for at least a year and there’s no place for Charlie to stay except with me. His mother refuses any contact with the poor kid. He’ll be here Thursday and I just don’t know how I will be able to handle him, Will, and you, Jay!”
Nanna collapsed in a chair across the table from us, clearly distraught, anxious, and worried, not only for Charlie but for us. I know she thought she was failing us and him!
Will looked at her, smiled, and said, “Don’t worry, Nanna, Charlie can come here after school when you’re here and he can stay all night when Jay is gone.”
Such a simple solution!
She looked as though she was about to protest, but was stopped by Will continued chattering his solution, “Charlie can ride the bus with me and we can do our homework together like Jay and I do and he can read to me and we can play cards and other stuff. Jay can put another bed in my bedroom and then I’ll be with my second best friend in the whole world.”
A tear rolled down her cheek as she stood, walked around the table to Will, leaned over and kissed him gently on the forehead. “Will, I love you too you know. You bring joy into all of our lives. I think Charlie would think that’s a great idea and if Jay agrees, that’s what we’ll do.”
Of course I agreed, how could I deny Will? Charlie arrived, both boys were happy, and I became “Uncle Jay.”
To be continued.
Thank you for reading “Where there’s Will, There’s a Way” Chapter Ten ––“and blind as are, these three to me, so blind to someone I must be.” (Walter De La Mare)
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or locales is entirely coincidental or used in a fictional content.
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