This story is a bit longer than most, but it’s a tale of boxing, Hollywood in the ’50s at the end of the studio system, and a first date that may–or may not–be going well. I really enjoyed writing this one. It first appeared on Scriggler.

Image result for Los Angeles, 1952

 

When that first dime-sized drop of blood hit her blouse, I figured the evening was pretty much shot. It landed just below her pearls,and lay there accusingly. She didn’t notice. Lorna was too busy alternating between peeking through gaps between her fingers—pretending not to watch—and shouting at the top of her lungs.

Maybe the fights at the Legion weren’t the best choice for a first date after all. Especially with a nice girl like Lorna Malone. Not that it was any kind of title fight or anything. Saturday nights at the Legion—particularly in the summer when the place was a sauna—were for new kids. Sure, the main event was going to be decent; Leroy Jones was fighting Gil Cadilli, which shaped up pretty good except that Leroy had already fought twice already that month—it was that kind of card. The headliners were Mickey Northrup and Bobby Garza. The winner would probably get a title shot down the line, but I was still thrilled to be there. The blob on Lorna’s blouse grew as the stain set in, but her eyes were on the action, thank God.

Up to that point, I’d been in tall cotton. My boss at the car lot gave me the tickets— front row, north end—not prime seats but pretty damned good. It was the first time I got to sit with the big shots instead of the balcony with the negroes, Mexicans, and the soldiers on leave, who were basically looking for a reason to fight negroes and Mexicans. This was for sure the first time I’d been there with a girl.

Lorna looked away from the action long enough to put the straw to her bright red lips, giving me the sweetest smile. She looked like she was having a good time. Maybe she wouldn’t notice the blood. Of course, it was only the third bout…there was a long way to go.

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“Here ya go, kid. Good things happen when you make your chalk. They’re front row.” Morrie grinned around that fat, smelly stogie as he handed them to me.

“Whoa, thanks, Mr. Aylmer.” I looked at the face value printed on them. “Front row? That’s a lot of money.”

“Studios give’em to me all the time for helping them find jalopies for the pictures. No skin off my nose. Who ya gonna take?”

I shrugged. Wasn’t going to be Ma, that’s for sure. Bad enough I was still living with her in Glendale. She’d been awful needy since I got back from overseas. I didn’t really have enough money for a decent place of my own, and she had trouble keeping the place up. Plus, she’d spent two years worrying there was going to be another gold star in the window, and was just glad to have me home. And her cooking was aces.

As for girls I knew…there weren’t really any. Maybe Georgie’d go with me if he could shake the ball-and-chain for the night.

“What about that hot little number who came in last week? Torpedo tits? Big teeth?”

“You mean Miss Malone?” I remembered her, of course. Nice girl, good figure under that sweater set, whitest teeth I’d ever seen, about a mile out of my league. “She’d never even know who I am…and I don’t have her number.”

Morrie grunted his way out of his chair and waddled over to the filing cabinet. “Of course you do. It’s right here. She had to fill out all her particulars so she could buy that piece of crap on time.” It was a 1947 Ford Deluxe Coupe—she adorably insisted on calling it coupay, like the French—with a pristine exterior and a starter held together by hand-soldering and prayer.

The old lecher held the blue index card with her Hollywood address and her phone number out to me. “Name, address. Even her employer—Monogram Studios. She’s a contract player. You’re in like Flynn, buddy boy.”

I was never, ever, in like Flynn, but I appreciated his faith in me. “I don’t know what to say to her. She won’t even know me…”

Morrie rolled his eyes beseeching God to save him from me and all morons. He opened his desk drawer, pulled out a paisley woman’s scarf and threw it at me. “She forgot her scarf.”

“I’m pretty sure that’s not her scarf,” I said, running it through my fingers. It was cheap nylon but looked like silk. She’d look great wearing it. If it were really hers, which it clearly wasn’t.

“Do you know that for a fact?” I shook my head. “Does she know that?” The lightbulb above my head flickered on.

“Who knows, she might show a little gratitude…” he made a jerking motion with his hand and laughed that big-belly-shaking laugh that made people forgive him no matter how badly he diddled them on price. As for the otherI’m not sure she’d be that grateful, but I might get a date out of it.

“Is this ethical? I mean…” Morrie just stared at me like I’d sprung a second head.

“Ethical? What do you think we do for a living? Ethical…geezus kid, all’s fair in love, car sales, and poontang.” He really believed that. He was giving up the tickets to be with Charlene, the peroxide-addled “receptionist” he didn’t think the employees or his wife knew about.

Lorna Malone lived at the Hollywood Studio Club on Lodi just off Gower and Fountain, along with about a hundred other girls trying to get into the pictures. Technically, she was in the pictures. She’d proudly shown everyone at the dealership the pay stub from Monogram Studios. Imagine, Jimmy Ferguson dating a real-life actress. I was busting my buttons, although of course, I didn’t tell Ma. She always warned me about actresses, like she did anything else in a skirt.

I parked outside and nearly melted walking between the Super Deluxe Morrie let me borrow from the lot (as long as I hand-to-God promised to clean up the back seat before bringing it back — as if) and the lobby. June in Los Angeles isn’t exactly tie weather, especially the big wool knit boa constrictor I had wrapped around my neck, but it was my only good necktie and I wanted to look sharp. Besides, it matched the jacket, which was another questionable choice, but Ma said it made me look gentlemanly and wouldn’t l until lay off until I wore it. Even Morrie let me skip the tie once it hit 85 degrees.

Streams of hot air from two big fans hit me as I entered the lobby. Since it was Saturday night, the place was full of nervous, eager-looking guys my age, about a dozen or so—even one uniformed and very uncomfortable chauffeur. It was a nice enough reception area… Spanish tiles on the floor and a big wooden desk with a switchboard and a middle-aged matron glowering at me.

“May I help you?” Her voice was just slightly lower than my old drill sergeant’s, and her hair maybe half an inch longer. She looked like there was almost anything she’d rather do than offer assistance, but she did ask.

“I’m here to see Miss Malone. I’m Jimmy Ferguson.” She stared at me.

“Who?”

“Lorna Malone?” Still no hint of recognition. I tried again. “She’s an actress…” That didn’t exactly narrow it down, so I kept trying. “Pretty? Redhead? About so high?” I held my hand at about chin height. Still nothing. “Nice teeth…” I was running out of what I knew about my date. That seemed to do it, though. The matron grunted.

“You mean Patsy. Just a minute.” She held up a gnarled finger that froze me in place until she plugged a cord into the switchboard. “Miss Malone?” She said the name like it hurt her teeth. “There’s a Mister Ferguson here to see you…. Yes alright.”

The old bat pointed to a damask wing chair in the corner, close to the door and as far from her as possible. “She’ll be down in a moment. Meanwhile, she’s to be in by midnight- we have a curfew here, even on Saturdays, And no men past this spot. Ever.”

Her gaze froze any smart-ass remark into a chunk of ice in my throat. I politely nodded my assent and took a seat. I avoided her gaze by looking around the lobby, tapping my foot and drumming a little Gene Krupa on my knees while staring at the fire door that led to the dormitories, praying Lorna wouldn’t change her mind.

She hadn’t. The room got less stuffy when the cool breeze that was Lorna Malone wafted through the swinging door. She wore a blue skirt, with a perfectly starched white blouse. She had real mock-pearls around her throat, and studs in her ears. She flashed her immaculate teeth as she spotted me.

“Mister Ferguson…” She offered her hand professionally. “So nice to see you again. I didn’t expect to hear from you, I must say it was a pleasant surprise when you called.”

One thing I had learned since working on the car lot was to talk to women without making a complete ass out of myself. “Yeah. I mean, sure. I’m pleased you could make it. I know it’s kind of last-minute.” For me, that was pretty smooth talk and I’d done it without tripping over my tongue.

Her laugh was like cold lemonade at an August picnic—perfect. “Us…we working girls don’t usually make plans for the weekend, except catching up on our sleep. I have to be at the studio bright and early every morning but Sunday. But it was so nice to hear you’d found my scarf, and it’s not every night you get invited to a boxing match, my goodness.”

I reached into my jacket pocket and pulled out Morrie’s scarf. “I didn’t know for sure if it was yours, but…” She extended a smooth white hand with perfect cherry-red nails and daintily plucked it from my sweaty hand. Lorna examined it, eyebrows raised, then stuffed it in her purse. She flashed me those teeth. “Thank you so much, I was so afraid I’d lost it. I’m such a goose sometimes.”

I know she was talking as we made our way past the other guys waiting for girls who never made plans for the weekend, out the door and up the block to my car. If you put a gun to my head I couldn’t tell you what she said. I just know it sounded terrific and made me grin. I sped up to get ahead of her and opened the door. “Milady.” I ushered her in with a bow.

She laughed. “Well thank you, kind sir. Such a gentleman.” I floated around the back of the car to my own door and climbed in.

“So where is the boxing…fight…thing? I’m sorry, I’ve never seen boxing except in the movies. Did I even say that right?”

“You did fine. The Legion is downtown. Well, a bit south. It’s not too far.” I checked my watch. We’d have to hustle, but there really wasn’t anywhere I’d rather be than in that stuffy borrowed car. I took my eyes off Lorna long enough to pull into traffic without hitting anyone.

We talked mindlessly for a bit. There are rules to living in Los Angeles, and the first, inescapable law is, all conversations must start with, “Where are you really from?” Inevitably I was the only one to respond, “Here.” She was no exception.

“Boston. Well, Milton, but I say Milton and everybody says ‘never heard of it’ so I have to say Boston anyway, so I just say Boston. How about you?”

I smiled at her. “Well, Glendale. And then everyone pretends like they never heard of it so I say Los Angeles. Kinda the same thing.”

“You’re funny. I like funny guys.” Hot damn.

It went on like that for a while, awkward but pleasant first-date chatter but I knew I’d have to ask sooner or later. “Why did that lady call you Patsy?”

My date hid her face in her hands and groaned melodramatically. “She didn’t, did she? Arrrggh. Okay, can you keep a secret?” I nodded, like I’d do anything else under the circumstances. She scooted towards me on the bench seat, teeth and boobs leading the way. “Okay, Lorna Malone isn’t my real name. The studio gave it to me when I started getting speaking parts. I used to be Patsy McGuigan. They were looking for more of a movie-star name. I mean, there’s no hiding the Old Sod on this face, but they thought Lorna Malone sounded more “Lace Curtain.” I was Patsy when I checked in, and Margot still calls me that, although I’m trying to get everyone to call me Lorna—just so I can get used to it, you know? What do you think, do I look more like a Lorna or a Patsy?”

I tried not to think about the fact that putting your movie star name on a bank note for a car was probably fraud, and told her honestly. “Definitely a Lorna.” She playfully slapped my arm.

“Good boy.” That earned me three blocks of happy silence.

“So you’re getting speaking parts? That’s good, right?” I asked the right question. She lit up like it was Christmas and turned completely towards me.

“Yes, five pictures in a row now. That’s why I got my raise and figured I could finally get a car. Ninety dollars a week isn’t a lot but for Monogram…Do you know how I got my raise?” I wisely shook my head. I had several ideas but I didn’t expect the answer. “I’m the best drink-thrower on the lot.”

“A what?”

“Drink-thrower. It’s a skill, really. See, in ‘Ghost Chasers,’ they needed a girl to throw a drink in Leo—that’s Leo Gorcey’s—face. But most girls don’t do it right. They throw the drink like you would in a guy’s face in a bar, for real.”

“You throw a lot of drinks in guys’ faces?” I asked.

“Well, a lady has to defend her honor,” she said in a fake, albeit sexy Southern accent, while pretending to fan herself. “Do you know the secret?” I shrugged appropriately. “Well, see, you don’t want to get it in his eyes, because then he can’t keep the scene going. I figured this out, see, so when I got my shot I aimed it at his mouth. You take it like this…” She picked up an invisible glass and tossed it at me.” …and you aim at his mouth. It was great. Leo could keep his eyes open, and it was so perfect he even turned it into a spit take. The director loved it, and when they needed someone to do it in the next picture—that’s ‘Let’s Go Navy’—I got to do it again. With lines. Leo and Huntz get a lot of drinks thrown in their faces in their pictures. Probably in real life too, cause Huntz can be a little handsy- although not with me. Now Leo asks for me all the time, and my price went about –” she held her fingers up, spread about half an inch apart, “–this much. But, a raise is a raise, right?”She finally paused to breathe.

I nodded. I’d kill Ma for a steady ninety a week, but I didn’t say anything.

“How long have you been selling cars?”

“Well, when I got back from overseas…”

She gasped. “Did you fight in Korea?”

“No, Okinawa.” And it wasn’t so much fighting as it was counting sacks of potatoes and humping them onto transports, but it was overseas and I wore a uniform so I left it at that. “Got home and needed a job. Not really sure what to do with myself, and Ma needed help, so I came home and found the first job that would hire me where I didn’t need to wear a uniform every day.”

“You live with your mother?” There it was. I don’t think she saw me flinch.

“Just ‘til she’s okay and then I’ll maybe buy a house.”

“That’s sweet,” she said, looking straight out the windshield and down Olympic Boulevard.

 

The first fight was just about to start by the time we’d bought a couple of Cokes and found our seats. Sure enough, we were front row, right behind the scorer and his big fedora. Lorna had to lean into my shoulder to see around it, so that was working at least.

The Legion was a big barn of a place and it was only half-full. I couldn’t imagine how hot it would have been if the place was packed like it was some nights. Smoke hung at head-level, and Lorna waved a dainty hand over her nose as we took our seats.

“I hear there are a lot of movie stars and big shots come here,” I said, hoping it would add a little glamor to the scene.

“I work on a movie lot, silly. I see stars all the time.” She scanned up and down the arena anyway, frowning a bit at not seeing anyone she recognized, but the night was young. We were seated next to a big guy in a really expensive-looking black suit. The woman next to him probably cost him considerably less.

The guys’ blonde companion nodded to us in a friendly way. Lorna crossed her legs at the ankles and primly nodded back just to be polite. The announcer was in the center of the ring already, along with the fighters and their corners.

The first fight was “Baby” Marvin Smith against some Mexican kid, Flores or something, who was making his debut. They were a couple of lightweights, and one look at Flores told me this wasn’t going to be his night. Maybe it was because the biggest thing on him was the mustache.

Lorna shifted in her seat to get a better angle away from the scorer’s hat, which meant leaning into me a bit. I didn’t mind at all, but she didn’t look comfortable.

“Want to switch seats?” I asked.

“Do you mind? I can’t really see. That’s so sweet of you.” We stood up and swapped. As Lorna drifted into her seat, the woman next to her offered a toothy grin. Her teeth were bigger than Lorna’s but not nearly as perfectly straight or white.

“You got a real nice guy there, honey.” If that was a shot at the guy she was with, he didn’t pay her any mind. He just sat staring straight ahead, arms folded, and every couple of minutes some weasel-y looking fellow in a much less expensive suit would come up, whisper in his ear and hand him a piece of paper, which got shoved nonchalantly into his pocket.

“Yes, he is. And a real gentleman too.” She patted my arm affectionately as she said it, and I sat up straighter.

“Lucky you,” Blondie said, popping her gum. She nodded in the direction of her escort, without saying another word.

The announcer finished introducing the fighters and the bell rang. Flores came out like a Mexican in his first fight was expected to, all face first and leather everywhere. Smith just kept his jab out, keeping the skinnier man at bay.

Lorna watched, her brow crinkling adorably. After the first round, she whispered in my ear, “Why isn’t anyone hitting anyone?”

“What do you mean?” I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant. It had been a pretty good feeling out round, although it was clear Flores was on borrowed time.

“Well, you know I don’t know anything about boxing, but in the pictures they…I don’t know…hit each other a lot more.”

I smiled and tried to explain the concept of the sweet science, and how it’s actually a very technical thing…and if no one gets knocked out there are judges who will decide who won, There was more to the sport than the movies made it seem, and I loved playing the expert. She nodded but didn’t seem convinced. Just about then Smith hit the Mexican with a right cross that seemed to come from nowhere, but drove its target clear across the ring and against the ropes, his back to us. Pinned against the ropes, Flores was a sitting duck and Baby teed off on him. Sweat flew with every punch, droplets reflecting the stadium lights in the smoky air like stars, which I’m sure Flores saw.

Lorna pulled back in horror. She let out a squeaky “ooh,” and covered her eyes when it looked like Flores was going down but he low-blowed his way out of the corner and the bell sounded, sparing him for another round at least.

“Your first fight, honey?” Blondie asked her.

“Yeah…yes, it is.”

“You’ll love it, but it takes some getting used to. I’m Maggie.” She held out her hand, big fake rocks—that big they had to be— adorning two fingers, and her nails kind of a tangerine-y orange. Lorna took it obligingly, her own perfectly polished red nails and pale smooth skin a clear contrast.

“Lorna Malone. Charmed.” Maggie whistled when she saw Lorna’s hands.

“Wow, who did your nails?”

“Oh, these? Our date was kind of last minute, so I got one of the makeup people at the studio to do them. Isn’t that a darling shade?

“The studio, nice.” The way the blonde said it was more like “noice,” but Lorna humbly accepted the compliment. The two of them began to discuss nail color and my attention drifted back to the fight. Flores got his skinny behind kicked, which was no way to begin a career, but he was still on his feet when the decision was announced.

We had a little time before the next bout, another four-rounder. I explained what was happening, and what a welterweight was—something of a trick for me since I could never remember what weight fell into what division. All I knew was, on a good day I was a tall middleweight, which made these guys about my size but in way better shape. Of course, they didn’t have Ma shoving food down their gullets every day, telling them they looked skinny.

“Here, this’ll make the time pass, honey.” Maggie tilted her big triangle purse towards us, a mickey of rum conspicuous among the loose tissues, breath mints, various tubes of war paint and a pack of Marlboros.

Lorna demurred. “Oh no, I really couldn’t,” but the look she gave me said she was at least tempted.

I realized she was asking permission. “Sure, go ahead, what can it hurt?”

Maggie the blonde glugged a healthy pour into Lorna’s half-finished bottle of soda. “What about you, handsome? Want some?”

The last time I drank rum I left most of it—and I think a healthy piece of my stomach lining—in an Okinawan alley, so I waved her off. “No, but thanks.”

Lorna turned those big brown eyes at me. “You sure this is okay?”

“Yeah, ‘course.” I guess she was afraid I’d think less of her or something, which was pretty much impossible as I was already planning our wedding, third kid, and how I’d tell Ma. Lorna left a bright pink smear on her straw as she took a long slurp.

“Oh my, that’s strong.” She giggled.

“Plenty more where that came from, Honey. Oh my stars and stripes, look at the form on that one.” That one, it turns out, was Don Casanova. He stood in the ring in black trunks, with a good sweat on him and a physique like a miniature Victor Mature, including the overdeveloped pecs.

“He’s quite, um…muscular,” Lorna agreed.

“You know,” I chimed in a little too quickly, “Muscles like that sometimes work against a fighter.”

Maggie let out a honk like the horn on a Studebaker. “Honey, he could waste them muscles on me anytime.”

Lorna covered her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Oh, Maggie. You’re terrible.”

“You have no idea,” she laughed, and looked fondly at her date, who was whispering to his cheap-suited friend and pocketing more slips. Maggie sighed and then leaned over to Lorna and said, in what was supposed to be a whisper. “Always business…I haven’t been terrible for a week now.”

Again, Lorna’s perfect hands flew to her face with a gasp. Then she gave the older woman a playful slap. “You’re an awful influence.”

Maggie took a long pull on her own drink. “Given half a chance.”

The fight began and Lorna quickly learned that heavier men landed heavier punches. Sure enough, Casanova looked good and had great form but was painfully slow. That gave the opponent, Don Smith, the opening he needed to counterpunch every time the he-man tried to get inside. Lorna’s eyes were glued to the action now, and I kept side-eyeing her to see if she was having a good time or not. It was hard to tell. Her hands were clenched, when they weren’t over her eyes, and she gasped deeply with every punch.

During the third round, she caught herself just before biting one of her perfectly manicured nails. She knew I’d seen it and laughed. Compared to Maggie’s honk, Lorna’s laugh was a tinkling piano.

“It’s nerve-wracking, isn’t it? Makes me all nervous.” She dropped her hands to her lap.

“Sure, that’s the fun of it. Are you enjoying yourself?” I asked hopefully.Image result for boxings, 1952

She flashed me a shy smile and nodded eagerly. “Yes, it’s just so…different than it looks in the movies. I haven’t seen nothing” she stopped in mid-sentence. “Anything, like it.” I watched the official scorer at the table in front of us wiping away sweat when he should have been watching Smith give Casanova an elbow to the ear. True enough, nobody in the front row at the Loews gets splashed with water, sweat, and blood. Maybe that’s why I seldom went to the movies, although you could bet I’d see the next Bowery Boys.

It was somewhere in the third that Lorna got hit by the first sweat drops. She waved her hand away, thinking it was a fly or something. When I explained what it really was, she made a disgusted noise, and I think might have thrown up in her mouth a bit, but she sat further back in her seat and used one of Maggie’s tissues to wipe it off like a champ.

After a draw was declared to the boos from the crowd—the boxing fans who thought Smith did enough to win, and from Maggie and Lorna, who shouted that Casanova got robbed—I went to fetch us more Coke. As I passed in front of her, I felt a small, soft hand on my leg. It was an innocent enough gesture, but it made me feel like I’d won a four-rounder of my own.

Coming back down the concrete steps, second-guessing my decision to get popcorn too, since it made the balancing act a little tricky, I saw Lorna whispering to Maggie. To my shock, when our eyes met, she guiltily dropped her cigarette and crushed it with her pointy toed pump. “I hope you don’t think badly of me, Maggie offered and…I’m just kind of a party-puffer, you know?”

I told Ma’s voice in my head to shut up and reassured her it was fine, so long as she was having a good time. She nodded and hungrily snatched an unladylike handful of popcorn. Popping some I her mouth, she giggled. “Everything’s better with popcorn, don’t you think?” It sure was.

The longer the night went, the quieter Lorna seemed to get during the action. Her eyes widened with each big swing and scrunched tightly shut when someone landed a particularly loud body shot.

It was amazing what a difference it made being up front than in the cheap seats. The boxing wasn’t particularly good, but it was live, and I was front row, and I was with Lorna. I felt like a big shot when I pointed out George Raft sitting catty-corner from us with some of Mickey Cohen’s boys, and my date was so thrilled she bounced up and down in her hard seat.

Another four-rounder, and it was time for the co-main event. I had a soft spot for Cadilli ever since I saw him draw with Keeny Teran in the first fight I went to after getting home. He was one of “Senator” Johnny Forbes’s boys—a bunch of tough kids, vatos mostly, from East L.A. but a pretty fighter to watch. The opponent was Leroy Jones, whose fight name was “Casey”, which hardly seemed worth the effort of having a nickname. Jones was a stocky negro with a flat nose, which may or may not have started out that way, and a granite chin. He also fought more often than any human I’d ever heard of.

“Who are you voting for?” Lorna asked.

“Gil Cadilli. The Mexican guy.” He might have been Italian, it was hard to tell.

“Then that’s who I’m voting for, too.” She said, determinedly. She cupped her hands to her mouth and yelled, “Go Cadilli.” I don’t know if she was a cheerleader back in Milton, Mass, but she’d have been a damned fine one.

By now, Lorna and Maggie were chattering like magpies, and really cheering the fighters on, which allowed me to concentrate on the bout and relish my front-row status. The first round was slow, but Cadilli looked solid. I was amazed at his slick footwork, and shots from Jones that looked like they connected, actually hit nothing but air or bounced off his arms as my boy slickly dodged them. Lorna started asking more questions, and I got to play big-shot explaining the difference between an uppercut and a hook, and what the judges were looking for.

In the second, the two fighters butted heads and blood gushed from Gil’s forehead. Lorna gasped, and covered her eyes. “They’re gonna stop the fight, aren’t they? I mean he’s really bleeding bad…ly.”

I tried to soothe her concerns. “Nah, they’ll put a little ice and styptic on it between rounds. It’s not as bad as it looks.” That punch would have put me in the hospital, but I wasn’t a prizefighter.

It looked a whole lot worse when Gil’s concentration lapsed and he found himself against the ropes. Jones landed a flurry of body shots and that’s when more than sweat landed on my date. I held my breath, waiting for a reaction. It wasn’t the one I expected.

As Jones worked Cadilli over, the Mexican shook his head to get his hair out of the way. That’s when drops of all kinds flew everywhere and I saw the red spot on Lorna’s blouse. She was too busy cheering Cadilli on, becoming more vocal and wild-eyed with every combination but covering her eyes when things went the other way. “C’mon Gil…. Hit him…” After one particularly vicious uppercut, Lorna gasped, leaned halfway out of her seat and yelled, “C’mon, hit that nigger.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth then her hands flew to her face. She was mortified, although I don’t know whether it was the word itself or the shanty-Irish way she pronounced it—more niggah than the other word—that caused her embarrassment.

I laughed loudly, managing not to show my shock. Ma would have washed my mouth out with soap for using that word. It wasn’t polite, and since I was to have nothing to do with those people, there was no reason to ever say it anyway. It did sound funny coming out of that angelic face, looking for forgiveness like it mattered what I thought. After all, it was hardly the worst thing ever yelled at a prize fight. It might have started a riot in my normal section of the arena, but down among the rich and mostly white, it was just another word in a roiling sea of cussing and shouting.

Maggie heard it, though, and slammed her purse shut with a braying laugh. “Oh honey, you’re cut off.”

Lorna hid her face in my shoulder. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I never talk like that.” I took a moment and patted that gorgeous red hair, savoring the moment, wondering how I’d ever top this if we had another date, and it looked like we just might, though I’ve been wrong before.

“It’s okay.” I said after a pause, not sure if it was or not, but really what would you have done?

She turned her head up to me, those eyes a little watery. “You don’t hate me?”

“Hell, no.”

It was the right answer because she kept her head on my shoulder and we finished watching the fight. She had one hand on my arm, squeezing when the action got intense. Cadilli finally got his legs back and did what I knew he’d do—punish Jones but not put him away. Lorna continued shouting encouragement, but much more politely.

By the time Gil’s hand was raised, Lorna had a peculiar look on her face.

“What?” I asked.

Lorna bit her lip, then whispered in my ear. “Can we get out of here?”

My heart sank. There was still the main event- Bobby Garza and Mickey Northrup. We had front row seats. The winner was going to get a title shot. Trying to hide the disappointment in my voice, I asked, “You want me to take you home?”

She laughed that perfect tinkling laugh, leaned up and caught my earlobe in her perfect teeth and bit softly. “I didn’t say, take me home, ya big dope. I said get me out of here.”

Garza lost a unanimous decision to Mickey Northrup that night. Or so I heard.

 

If you enjoyed this story, please check out my other short stories… Maybe even buy a book like The Count of the Sahara or Acre’s Bastard. (Click to visit my Amazon Author Page.)