My guest today is Carl R. Brush. Hello! Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you here again.
|Carl R. Brush, author of THE YELLOW ROSE|
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can
we get it?
latest is a historical novel called The Yellow Rose, A novel of the Texas
Revolution. It came out around the first of the year and it’s available on
Amazon and at my house in California.
Morgan’s Point, Texas
“Girl. Let’s have another.”
Sam Houston called to me, waving his mug at the end of a buckskin-clad arm. Fringe danced under an armpit stained with sweat. It probably smelled worse than a dead polecat, but sure as cotton’s white, I wasn’t about to test that theory.
My name is Emily West, but in Morgan’s Point Hotel, they called me “girl.” A common enough name for a mulatto woman working in a saloon. Somehow my skin didn’t crawl when Sam Houston said it. He didn’t use the derogatory tone most of these louts did with us darker people. I could slough off the insults better than most, being a high yellow mix of white and black, a free woman under contract, not the slave that people figured me for. Still and all, that constant “boy” “girl” “boy” “girl” business felt like needles jabbing, jabbing, jabbing every time.
Houston, though, he sounded like he was just calling for service. That’s what got me interested in the first place. I nodded in his direction and made my way toward him, dodging and slapping away the customary pats and squeezes, some on my backside, some higher, some lower. The clients of Morgan’s Point Hotel Saloon were rougher than an outhouse corncob.
“That’s what I like. A woman who steps right to it when a man calls,” Houston said to his companions without taking his eyes off me.
“What say, General?” demanded the man sitting across the table from him.
“Turn your good ear so you can hear me, Deef,” Houston said. Then, playing to rest of the table, he yelled, “Oh, I forgot, Deef ain’t got a good ear.”
The men roared their delight, Deef right along with them.
Houston handed over his empty tankard, then picked up his jackknife and began whittling on a shapeless wooden block, the slivers joined the other shavings that covered his moccasins.
He wasn’t much to look at, this Sam Houston. Nose a bit too big, lips too thin, his hairline headed north, and bushy sideburns curving south along his chin. Kind of disappointing, since I’d heard so much about what a warrior he was, wounded hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
Gossip here was that President Andrew Jackson had sent this big drunk to pull this godforsaken Mexican hot box into the Union. Why they’d want it was beyond me. It didn’t seem worth the wind it’d take to blow every grain of sand of it into Galveston Bay, which seemed likely to happen any day. Houston just wanted to prove he could do it was my guess. Like any man. Seems like what made the most sense was just leave it to the Mexicans.
But nobody asked me.
Houston and his buddies were on their way to getting glassy-eyed, but hadn’t quite arrived there yet. I got Houston’s attention by making sure he got a peek inside my low-necked bodice when I bent over to pick up his mug. Then I turned around, gave my hips an extra sway, and tossed a smile and a wink back over my shoulder as I returned to the bar. I felt his lust. Good. Bigger tips meant bigger savings toward the inn Mother and I planned to buy when I got back to New York where I belonged.
The tankards filled, I renegotiated the gauntlet of eager hands, painting a smile on my face to hide my resentment at every pinch and squeeze, then plopped the brew in front of him. I directed a bit of a splash down his front in the process. Why, I don’t know. To remember me by, I suppose.
“What the hell?” He dropped his knife and carving and jumped to his feet and bellowed like a bull calling for a heifer.
“Sorry I got your dirty clothes clean,” I said, mopping at the suds foaming on his matted chest hair.
“Leave it,” he said, slapping my hands away.
I was surprised to discover I had to lift up my chin to look in his eyes. Most men I look at straight across, and a goodly number have to lift their eyes to meet mine. Houston wasn’t ten feet tall like the stories said, but he had me by a good three or four inches. Maybe I hadn’t given him enough credit at first glance.
Still and all, he didn’t look like someone you’d count on to turn a mismatched conglomeration of Anglos and Mexicans into an army fit to throw off the likes of General Santa Anna. Quite a gamble for Old Hickory to back him. Like betting on a long shot in a cock fight. But maybe the president did that, too.
Houston’s watery blue eyes scanned me. He tilted his head like a dog, curious and wary about a cat he’s happened on. He swayed a bit. Not unusual for our patrons this time of night, but more noticeable with his height.
“You’re a tall one,” he said.
“Is that what makes you a great leader?” I said. “Your knack for spotting what’s obvious?”
“Here girl, keep your mouth to yourself.” A monotone voice flared behind me, a rough hand grasped a fistful of my sleeve and pulled at me.
I was about to treat his hand to a taste of my fingernails, when Houston laughed and said, “No, Deef. Leave her be. She’s got gumption, and you know I like a good laugh.” He reached to dislodge his buddy’s hand but never took his eyes off me the whole time, nor did I take mine off his. I felt Deef release his grip and retreat. Big dog, little dog. I’d seen this act before.
“He hears better than he makes out, doesn’t he?” I said.
“You don’t talk like a Southern nigger,” Houston said.
“Nossuh,” I said, mimicking the accent of a Southern chattel. “I’s from New Yohk.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Colonel Morgan signed me on to look out for his warehouse and serve here in his saloon.”
“Signed you on? Contract then?”
“One year. And with six months to go, I wish it was over.”
“So you’re one of those free ones, are you?”
“Cross my heart.” I batted my eyelashes and patted the place under my blouse where I had my papers tucked away. “Lots more of us around than you might want to think.”
“Warehouse. Big job for a man like Jim Morgan to trust to a girl, free or not. So must be you can read and write and cypher.”
“Me?” I said, simpering and looking up at him with half-closed eyes, “a simple bar girl?”
Houston smiled. “Deef,” he said, sitting back down and grasping the handle of his mug, “we must treat this woman with respect. She’s probably more educated than you and me.”
“That’s a safe bet,” I said
He stuck out his hand. “Houston’s the name. Sam Houston.”
I didn’t take his hand immediately. “I don’t have to read, write or cypher to know who you are, General.”
He didn’t withdraw his hand. “It’s Sam to you Miss … ” He raised his eyebrows.
I finally deigned to clasp his hand. “West. Emily, General Houston.”
“Well, Emily West, would you draw me a bath and see to my buckskins?” He lifted a pair of saddlebags from the floor and slapped them on the table. “I have another outfit in here needs washing as well.”
“I’ll draw your bath, General,” I said. Then I whispered, “And that’s all.”
“What did you say, girl?” Deef said.
Houston shrugged. “Deef here didn’t catch that, but I heard you loud and clear.”
Deef started to answer but sat looking at me with murder in his eyes. Obviously, no one challenged his general.
Houston downed his beer, then leaped up and marched off toward the stairs that led to the upstairs rooms. I gathered the saddlebags and followed, Deef straggling behind me.
My mind was racing. I’d thought I had control of the situation with this overgrown, half-drunk, so-called general, and then suddenly I was left holding his dusty saddlebags and chasing him up the stairs.
My first lesson in how quickly Sam Houston could turn the tables in his favor.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Carl-R.-Brush/e/B00DCXPH64/