The Cheap Whore Of Brennan Street

She simply rolls her eyes and shakes her head

If, on one those rare occasions she is socializing

With friends (daylight hours with single women, naturally,

Of a certain bent and outlook) as opposed to clients, someone brings up

The notion of the hooker with the heart of gold;

You do not, speaking in a voice residing in the interval

Between a purr and a growl, get into the game

For the purpose of ministry—indeed, she will note

Half-jokingly and half-ruefully, that the major difference

Between her job and those of the third shift

At the Kendall refinery was the differences

In future health-related consequences.

 

She is, for a businesswoman, possessed of

A significant number of quirks; no interest

In the abnormal or unduly physically challenging

(Honey, you’ll never have enough money for that,

She will demur if the horse-trading turns

To such specialty items), nor will she have anything to do

With the management types from the city’s

More prosperous terms—for reasons she will not

Nor likely cannot explain—and she is notably fond,

Possibly to the point of lunacy, of lacing her small talk

With scripture and bon mots.  Indeed, one wall

Of the men’s room at the Zippo factory is devoted solely

To various quotes and scraps of verse she has uttered

To those patrons who punch the clock at the plant,

And more than one of the boys has said

She’s a pretty damn good piece, even at her age,

But sometimes you wish to Christ

She’d just lay there and be quiet.

 

It was not impossible that she could have gone

In another direction, or, at least, worked in

Her chosen field on a slightly different plane;

She had been, in her prime, quite stunning

And in possession of both a quick wit and certain presence

That would have nicely augmented the arm

Of those who lived in the rarified strata (or as high-falutin

As one can be in a small oil-boom town) who had

The combination of money, prestige, and the notion

That rules and sacred vows were for sheep and losers.

She chose—and it was a clear and conscious choice,

No doubt as to that—to, and hang the consequences,

Financial and otherwise, cast her lot with a humbler set;

The foreman, the mechanic, the stooped and gentle florist

Whose sole payment to her was a lifetime of free arrangements

From his small store on Bon Air Avenue (I tried to lock him in

To the floral tribute at my funeral, she once said,

But he seemed to think that would be inappropriate).

 

No one—even those in her very small circle of friends—seemed to know

Why she had spurned the easier road of the demi-acceptable courtesan;

She had given no indication that she saw herself

As some slightly tarnished saint, one of those so-called angels

With dirty faces (indeed, she had often made a point of saying

There was no good to be done in her particular line of work),

And she was not forthcoming about her curriculum vitae,

Although it was common knowledge she was raised

A strict Catholic, and it was said she had a brother who was

In the care of the state, though it was an open question  

As to whether that was in the medium security pen at Foster Brook

Or the bughouse in Kane.  In any case, as she was want to say

A whore is the last person you see to find the answers

To the mysteries of the universe, after which she would launch

Into a story about how Father Middlecoff, the priest of her youth,

Was known to be the absolute biggest cheater

To ever set a pair of spikes onto the green at the Bradford Country Club,

Or how the gangster Legs Diamond, who would just as soon shoot you

As to look at you, was known to be the most generous tipper

Ever to patronize the once-grand hotel in Albany

Where her maiden aunt had been, once upon a time, a cocktail waitress.

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3 thoughts on “The Cheap Whore Of Brennan Street

  1. So detailed. It’s the kind of work that makes one wonder about the writer.

    “She’s a pretty damn good piece, even at her age/But sometimes you wish to Christ/
    She’d just lay there and be quiet.”

    Loved this in particular.

    1. The genesis of this piece was the obit for a small-city madam who I was familiar with (well, her story anyway) from my childhood whose success in her vocation allowed her to acquire an extensive and somewhat distinguished art collection. When life throws you a bone that meaty, you just have to run with it.

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