Chapter summary: : What with the Depression on, in the New West, you're d-mn lucky to have a job at all ... if you're a man. If you're a woman, well, you know the score.


My name is Lisa.

I'm not telling you this. This doesn't matter to you. It matters to me.

After all these years, that all I have: my name.

My name is Lisa.

...

"Thank you, sir," I said humbly. "Please pay madame on your way out."

I didn't say their names. I knew their names. I knew who they were. I knew what they did. Miners, mostly. Farmers or ranchers, some; ranch-hands. Deputies.

Church-goers.

Husbands.

But I didn't say their names, because, of course, being blind, I couldn't see them, so, obviously, I couldn't know who they are, now, could I.

That's what made me popular with some of them. They weren't cheating of their wives if nobody saw them cheating, right? I was by no means the most popular girl. Others ... okay, Sarah, ... was so much better at this than I was, and some men wanted you to 'see' them. My blind eyes, seeing nothing, accused them with a justice that seeing eyes couldn't convey.

Some, ... a lot, didn't mind it. I was a whore. A hole to fuck, and they fucked it, and got away with it, scott-free.

Well, not 'free'-free. They paid. Madame saw to that.

You can cheat a blind girl by leaving two pieces of paper and calling it two dollars. You can cheat a blind girl and leave some of the copper you mined and calling them genuine gold dollars. You can't cheat madame.

I wasn't as popular after at first when some of the sirs tried to get away with that shit.

'Sirs.' As if. But 'John' was actually some of their names (or 'Jan' if they were older. Much older.), and 'sir'? Young boys, my age, working. So, so, grateful to be working seven days a week for a pittance.

God, the Depression is hard on everybody, isn't it? We're the lucky ones. We're out here on the frontier, not dying in New York City, children freezing to death in their tiny apartments without heat, or starving. New York City, thousands, ... hundreds of thousands, millions? out of work, out of home, starving, dying.

It boggles the mind.

We're the lucky ones.

I was lucky.

Yeah. I was lucky.

I never knew my dad. He died in a mining accident. Happens every year, right? One person or another, or ten, or twenty die. Everybody cries. What a tragedy.

They everybody's lives go on. Never mind the families left behind. I mean, you have your own problems, and that was yesterday's news.

My mom ...

Well, a woman, out here. You're married or you're fucked. There are no jobs for women. At all, really. You're lucky if you're the school marm. Maybe have a job at the bar as a bar maid. Maybe.

The rest ...

My mother died young. Whores do. They get used up, and they die. My mom lasted as long as she could for me. She died old, old, old at twenty-six, five years longer than most whores last.

What, some knight riding in on a white horse was going to come rescue her to her happily ever after? Her happily ever after was a laudanum overdose, she went out an opium addict, screaming and crying, I guess.

I don't know. I didn't see it. Blind, you know. And I was all of five, then.

No, I'm not bitter. I'm alive. I have a job, too.

A blind girl on her own? I'm one of the lucky ones.

I'm one of the lucky ones.

One of the advantages of being blind is all the other senses are fined-tuned to razor-sharpness.

A blessing and a curse. I can feel their stubble on my skin like sand paper. And men, from the mines, or from a hard day working on the ranches?

They stink. Something fierce.

I heard outside my room. "Thank you, sir, do come again!" Madame said brightly, the coin clinking in her hands.

She knew the sir was coming again.

They always did.

...

The night progressed as it always did. I earned my keep – another day's pay, another day's room and board – on my back, the sir on top of me. He did his business, and I did mine. Old? Young? Accomplished? Bumbling?

After the first year, it doesn't really matter. I gave up caring years ago. The girls who cared died so fast, a star burning out so quickly, their lives destroyed with their innocence. Me? I couldn't afford innocence. I'm sorry, but I knew the score. I knew where I fit in. I made madame her money, and the second I didn't, I was as good as dead. So, the sirs did their business, and I did my business... no, I was the business.

Whatever.

Like most sirs, he didn't say anything, and this one was 'smart': he didn't let me touch his face, so I could 'see' him. So I had 'no idea' who he was.

By his grunts, by his smell, by the feel of the pubes on his face that he was trying to cultivate into a beard to be a man now.

He was nineteen this year, wasn't he.

Not that I would know.

What with him being my next door neighbor, growing up. My age.

Not that I would know.

He entered me, I guess, he grunted, and that was that. He pulled out and pulled up his pants without ceremony, leaving me lying on the bed.

"Thank you, sir," I said softly, "please play madame on your way out."

He didn't even bother to grunt a reply, he just left.

I heard him pay madame outside my door. Walls on the second floor of the Lonesome Dove saloon are paper-thin.

But I heard something that gave me concern.

Madame's voice. "Thank you, sir, do come again."

There was a strain to it. And she didn't clink the coin gleefully.

Then something odd happened.

She came in.

"Get up!" she hissed at me furiously, "and get yourself cleaned up! Now, girl!"

I blinked, surprised.

Madame never talked to me. She only talked when there was trouble, and I was never any trouble.

"Oh, for!" Madame hissed.

She crossed the room quickly and grabbed my hair, pulling me upright. That hurt.

"Aaaahhh!" I whimpered. I knew this wouldn't do anything, but it still hurt, more the shock of it than anything.

She shook my head fiercely in her tight grip. "Are you deaf as well as blind?"

"No!" I snapped back, stunned by the accusation.

You just don't do that, that is: if you have any compassion left in your soul at all.

Madame did not have this problem, of course.

"Then you listen, and you listen good!" she hissed. "We have a very important person who's asked for you. This is the first time she's asked for our services and depending on how you do, this could mean we keep her business or we lose it. You do what she wants, whatever she wants, and you make damn sure she leaves satisfied, or I swear by all that's holy, I will make this the worst and last night of your miserable life. Do you understand me, girl?"

I gulped. "Um, ... 'she'? But I don't ..."

Madame's grip on my head tightened painfully. I cried out again, feeling the roots of my hair stabbing into my scalp, agonizing needles.

"You don't what!" she snarled into my face. "You get fucking cleaned up now, you little cunt!"

Then she threw me forcefully back down on the bed. "Jesus-God, save me from fucking idiots!" she spat, and she left, slamming the door behind her.

Then she scurried off, rushing to reassure this She, I'm sure, that everything was fine.

The implication to me was: it damn-well better be.

I sat up on the bed, and tried to control my breathing. You control your breath, you control your fury.

I couldn't control my breath. It felt like madame had punched me in the gut.

No. I can breathe. I can.

I can breathe.

I took a long, slow, deep breath.

There.

I blinked the tears from my eyes.

Time to get cleaned up.

Must be really important She. I didn't ever clean up for nobody. Just a wipe between my legs was good enough for the next sir. I guess women were different than men. Huh. If she wanted me clean, maybe she'd take her time.

Maybe I'd get to know what it feels like to cum for once in my life. Haha! Fancy that.

I smirked at that joke. I am so funny!

Ain't I.