I woke with a start. Pepper and June were standing by the door, decked for the track. They were watching me. "The hell ?!" I coughed out. "Good morning Daddy!" they both chimed. Then they kinda elbowed each other and eventually Pepper chipped in "Daddy, you want us out on that track ?" I held my head. "Baby, I told you..." June cut right in. "We didn't know what to do, Daddy. You said you don't want us back there but you didn't say where you want us and we didn't know what to do!" I looked at Pepper like "You're the adult, explain this insanity". She explained it alright. They got up. I was asleep. They didn't dare wake me. They didn't know what to do. It was getting towards noon. They figured get dressed and wait by the door. If I wake up and I'm on the side of why the fuck aren't they out there, it's not too late to cut out in a hurry. If I wake up and I'm on another side, they're still there to get the wire. They figured if they just split it'll be trouble, but if they just lounge around it won't look good either. This was the sort of thing I had to put up with from these two crazy bitches back in those early days. I told them, too. I said "No pimp young or old since the slave days had to deal with this kind of thing in all of carnation!" June was spooked, but Pepper chuckled and said "Say it like it's a bad thing, Daddy!" then grabbed her hand and said "We'd do anything for you Daddy. Ain't that right June!" and June nodded all broken up.
I said "We gotta figure out a better angle. I don't want you out there on that street with all the mangy dogs and two-dime crazies." Pepper raised her hand, like she was back in school. I looked at her. "Daddy... since I've been square lotsa studs wanted to freak with me. I was never game until today. I bet they'd like to hear." She ran it down for me. She could make party dates for the pair of them and really clean out. At least five hundred for the half a night, maybe a grand the whole night through. Maybe more, who knows. She said she knew some upscale players alright. "June's hotter merchandise than I've ever seen" she said. I nodded. I said "Go downstairs, the both of ya. June take that joker somewhere and do him dead while Pepper steals his phone. Then fetch some breakfast. Get me a rack. Get yourselves whatever you want. Daddy loves you broken down used up whores."
I stretched out in bed. I dozed off. The scent of hickory-fired ribs woke me. It was the damndest thing : June was naked, face up, her feet and palms on the floor pushing her body up right next to the bed. She was making like a table with herself. Pepper was laying out the rack of ribs on her belly, from her cat to her tits, sauces and everything. It was the god-damned best rack of ribs I ever ate! I nibbled her own set some too, and mauled and suckled the tits of the other freak, hunching and dangling herself over the table. Pepper moved on to eating me before I was done eating off June. She taxed me a good ounce or maybe two. I called them one pair of crazy whores, then Pepper clued me in. They had a party date set for nine o'clock, to go to some jokers' club and hang with them. It was an "all-night" deal, and the take ? A grand. For like twelve-fourteen jokers, that's all. Upscale folks, some athletic thing like faggots do, tennis or crochet or god knows what. That grand by the way ? Not for the pair. By the head. I fell back in bed. I said "Pepper you magnificent cocksucker, if you weren't so mangy I could kiss you." She jumped me, and tried to pin me down. I made like she almost had me, then pushed her some but let her get her upper hand back again. Through it all we both kept asking for June to help, until we drove her into a tizzy. She kept running from one to the other, tickling now me now Pepper, pushing and shoving and eventually Pepper pinned me with her ass, her cat in my face. It was like breakfast desert.
We had some time to kill, so we cleanned up nice and smooth, piled up in her Ford and went cruising. It was the early years for that Nat "King" Cole Trio. They were playing for a two-buck after work dance at Liberty Hall. I plunked down a bill like it was gum stuck to my sole. It got us a neat table in the balcony, overlooking the crowded dance floor. Every nigger in that joint was yellow with the jays for me with my two whores. I had them take the drinks from the waiters and serve them to me on their knees, just to drive every boy there ape. I think it sent the whore wire to at least five dozen young broads thinking of squaring out. I understood for the first time what Henry must have felt like, back in his good days. I didn't feel so bad for him anymore after that. Most jokers go to their grave without anything like it to show the worms. We had a great time, I don't think anyone remembers the band's performance from that night. Everyone was too busy dancing with their peepers trained on us like we was the the twilight's last gleaming.
We got out of there about half past eight. You could hear the joint lose pressure behind us with a woosh. We made it two blocks in the car when I spied none other than Miss Jackson. She was walking down the street just by her lonesome. I had Pepper pull the Ford to the curb by her, chatted her up nice and offered her a ride. She prissed some, but took me up on it. In the car I started talking up the party we were headed for. Pepper fell right in line, like we had been selling bibles door to door together our whole lives. I could tell Daphne's interested plenty, so I gave it to her on a silver platter : why not come along ? She's in no hurry to get back home anyhow, it'll just be half hour at the most, just the same time she's saving not having to walk. She hesitated plenty, but I could tell hearing June's fifteen cinched it for her. I didn't gorilla on her or anything, just the most mellow thing in the world, all but let her follow us in of her own, once we were there.
This party was the strangest thing. Plenty of swank all around, all marble and gold leaf and rich brocade and things. Crystal glasses like I'd never seen, they made a sound if you twinkled them like no silver bell can touch. Fourteen jokers just standing around or sitting down, holding up glasses and yakking at each other like boredom's their religion. At least at a prayer meeting they chant, or roll down on the floor like they found fleas where they didn't expect them, or jump up and down like drowned monkeys. At least it's something. These jokers didn't as much as that, they just stood still like scarecrows in low wind. Not a broad among them, either, calling their thing a party's like calling a spade furry. Once we got there they peeled off Pepper to show her something or the other they said, and that's the last I saw of her until we took off. She told me later they just piled into her in one of the bedrooms upstairs, with all their clothes on and in the dark, one at a time. They got June and Daphne drinks, and then this joker that must've been their captain started working on them so smooth like I'd never seen. He just kept pratting them, and even though he didn't even know at first that one's a whore and the other's square or which is which, half hour after he started on them Daphne was showing everyone her titties like that's what they did every day in school. She was a little boozy but far from drunk, mostly giddy with excitement. The joker flattered her and worked her nice and slow out of her duds one by one until she was buck-naked, prancing around all them dressed white suckers like a sheared black lamb. I was taking notes after him like he was Houdini giving pointers how to open safes. Whenever her or June managed to get one of the jokers hot and bothered enough he'd go take out his aggression on Pepper. I tried to steer them towards just doing the deed on the girls right there under the candelabras, but they were stone cold to the idea. I was a little disappointed, because June's such a pretty sight being worked over, but like the man said : can't put a pistol on a sucker. I think he faggots were just affraid of seeing one another's pricks, like a clued-in priest's affraid of seeing baby butt.
It wasn't even midnight by the time they were done, overdone and over-overdone. I left through the front door, thirty-eight fresh bills as clean as if they had been steam-pressed in my side. I didn't even need a fence or anything. It wasn't night-time burglary, from five to ten. Just business between best of friends. The fare coming to ten bills a whore, and I having showed up with three, that made three grand. Then another bill for each garment, as we agreed, because I wasn't about to let Daphne walk back a schoolgirl out of there. The gents were more than keen to buy their clothes for a memento. June only had the dress on her, so she only marked a hundred. They wouldn't take the shoes, they said it's ungentlemanly to force a lady barefoot. Bare butt's okay, just as long as it's not barefoot. Some twisted jokers alright, these were nigger bitches we were talking about. They somehow didn't seem to see it that way. I sure wasn't going to say anything out of line, nothing like "suckers, these bitches were barefoot all of this morning sucking me off". Daphne had seven things on her, including three different kinds of step-ins. Her cat was layered under like maybe she thought it is some kinda book. I explained to her that these jokers are crazy and no negro girl I don't care who she is or who her daddy is can't pass up a chance like this. She didn't take much to see it my way. Once we were in the car she didn't take much to see where she's going my way, either. I mean, I wasn't against dumping her back where I found her, but the way she found herself she thought maybe it's best not to. We left it that I'll safekeep "her" seven hundred dollars, seeing how she didn't have as much as a side on her to keep 'em in, and that she can have some clothes bought in the morning, but until then she's crashing at number 10. I sent Pepper to work her over while she slept with her, figuring it's not wise to let a young priss like that all by herself on her first night a whore, and went to bed with June.
It was nice to be only a little tight for once, to tell the truth. I hadn't had some decent sleep in what felt like whole weeks. I was out like a wetfarted candle. In the morning Pepper showed up with a postcard. It had the Golden Gate on one side and the neat scribble of a schoolhouse priss on the other. Daphne wrote to her parents "My Dear Parents, I am gone to be a whore and suck all the dick I can and turn tricks all the time because that's what whores do. Good-bye." Imagine getting that in the mail, a week after the fact. A postcard, even, bitch couldn't be bothered to as much as make it a telegram. Years later I heard that her parents went all the way to San Francisco in California to look for her, because maybe they didn't know to read post stamps or something ? Pepper just had the hotel clerk mail it. June came in with a pile of food and we sat down for breakfast. Daphne mostly had tears, but I gave her some chocolates and June hugged her so she seemed to feel better about being naked. When I told her it's only for the rest of her life she even giggled. Just about the time we were done the runt broke down the door. Then she froze in her tracks, looking from Daphne to me and back. Eventually she asked "How long have I been away ?" June told her it's been a coupla days. The runt nodded, then Daphne asked who is she ? June said "It's his cousin", pointing to me, but I said "No bitch, she's your cousin, remember ?" June looked at me confused, and that's when Pepper said "No, she's my uncle." I said to Daphne "go kiss her cat to welcome her in". She just turned all red and wouldn't say anything. I asked her if she's never done anything like that ? She shook her head no. I said that's pretty lame. Pepper said "just a little square". June said "She doesn't have to if she doesn't want to. Ain't that so, Daddy ?" I nodded, but Phyllis ditched her glove like back when she was Crystal at Pepper's pad and said "Sweet baby, come give ol' Crystal a kiss. Pretty please ?" They kept haranguing her until Daphne walked over and kissed the whore's mound. Pepper elbowed me and whispered "That jasper'll turn her out alright."
I said loud, "That so. You a jasper, bitch ?" The runt came up to me and said "Daddy, Big Daddy says to say to you that it's in, and you'll hear word today, and to be ready for it." I nodded and then said "Don't dodge the question, bitch!" She looked at me and then the other girls and then said "Daddy, that's the other thing. Back at my old pad, I had a neighbour. Her name's Chris, and Daddy... I miss her. You gon' let me go and try the cop ?" I took her in from head to the closeby toe. Bitch's been here all of five minutes she's already got a cop in tow, figuring weight for brawn she's like an army recruiter only better. "Alright", I said "Get going then. You want some breakfast first ?". She did, because she had peeled out of there as soon as she heard and had no time to eat anything. Frank kept her up all night poking at her. "He does that sometimes", Pepper chipped in. "Fair is fair" I said, "You can eat what we left on the plates, bitch." Daphne helped her a little, apparently her appetite wasn't absent, only slow. They licked those plates clean, between the two of them, while we made fun of them. God damned jailhouse whores doing the dishes with their hungry dick-ragged tongues. Then Phyllis split and I cleanned up. Pepper asked what now ? I said to her "Hold the house down. Babysit those two dumb bitches, and bring them up to par." I was putting on like June's a fresh cop just like the other one, and June was smart enough to play along. Pepper told me later she helped her oodles with breaking down the dumb one among them. I went downstairs to shoot the breeze with Jack, whose name really's Harry, and after a spell took off for a slow walk in the general direction of towards the Roost. I told him if there's a roust to send them there for me, anyhow.
I walked most of the way there without any trouble, but stumbled half a block up from the Roost. The guy that stood in the center of the sidewalk... I looked down at him. He stood a good foot shorter than the runt. He looked like a black baby grown up on ugly pills. His head was the size of a giant pumpkin. His voice was a squeal like a clappy joker makes when the croaker rams a sound down his dingus. He squealed, "Shine 'em up, Hot Shot. If I had your hand I'd throw mine away. Get on the bigtime. Shines ain't but a dime. Shine 'em up." I looked down at my stomps. They could stand a gloss all right. I followed the pointing, gnarled finger to the miggit's surprisingly large open-air stand. It sat at the mouth of a gangway between two buildings. The red fringes of its tattered canvas top rippled in the breeze. I climbed into the chair. The dwarf doled out the polish with large gestures for little squirts. A thin stud with at least a half a grand in threads on his back took the other chair. He was wearing silver nail polish like maybe he thought he's a kitchen appliance. He was reeking with perfume enough to pay for fifty potted plants. A gleaming butterscotch-colored custom Duesenberg eased into the curb in front of me. The top was down. My peepers did a triple take.
A huge stud was eased in the back seat. He had an ocelot in his lap dozing against his chest. The cat was wearing a stone-studded collar with a long golden chain strung to it. This stud had two spectacular high-yellow whores on either side of him. His diamonds were blazing. Three gorgeous white whores sat in the front. He looked exactly like Boris Karloff in black-face. He was rapping something. All five of those whores were turned toward him, listening and paying attention like he was God almighty telling them the secret of how angels piss. He could have been running down a safe place to hide because the world was coming to an end just as well. I asked the miggit who the hells is that. He said, "You gotsa be from outta town. That Sweet Jones. He's the greatest nigger pimp in the world that's ever been." The thin joker chipped in, "That spotted cat, that's Miss Peaches. It's the only bitch he cares lives or croaks. Shit, them whores you pinning ain't half his stable. If they got nigger pimps in outer space, he's the best of them, too. He's gonna take them whores into the Roost and pop some. He's lugging twenty G's in his raise like he's got a buck. Ain't no heist man crazy enough to stick him up though. He croaks niggers for his pass-timin' recreation."
I couldn't believe my eyes. Those Duesenbergs, they cost a fortune. He must have been the only black pimp in the country who owned one. My peepers jacked off just watching him and those high-powered whores. It was as exciting as maybe Christ making his encore. The dwarf was done shining. I held a buck over his head and he spent a while jumping for it. When I had enough of watching his big head bob like a Halloween head stitched to a bulldog I let him have it. He made change. I didn't take it off of him. I sat there a while and watched Sweet Jones and those whores get out of the Duesenberg and walk toward the Roost. The black-spotted cat slinked beside him. I thought, "Tonight I got to cut into him. I got to be careful so I don't blow him. The cut-in has got to be in the Roost. I'll go in and cook up something in there." I got off the stand. I saw old Preston trying to shoo two marks into the Greek's joint. Just as I turned into the Roost he bucked his eyes and jerked his thumb at me. He was tipping me Sweet was in the Roost. I nodded my head and went in. It was the combo's off time. The jukebox was grinding out "Pennies From Heaven." The joint hadn't crowded any yet. There were maybe a half dozen couples in the booths, some left over from last night by the looks of 'em. Sweet Jones and his whores were the only people at the log. Sweet sat just on the chair I sat when that slick pimp made his fast cop. The damndest thing : she was still there, though the slick joker was gone. The pretty Mexican broad, Miss Bet I Get Ya, was standing at attention in front of Sweet like she was asking for permission to tear her dress offa her titties. The cat was licking her paws beneath Sweet's stool. I sat at the log near the front door facing him and the stable.
Sweet bought the house a drink. She served his party first. She glanced at me, remembered my drink, brought me a Planter's Punch on Sweet. The floor waitress loaded a tray from the log and served the couples in the booths, all on Sweet. I sat there studying him. He looked about eleven feet, but had to be at least six-six. His face was like a black steel mask. Not a flicker of emotion played over it. He kept smashing the heels of his brute-sized hands together like he was crushing an invisible throat. Even at a distance it made me edgy. I guess it kept his whores on the brink of peeing on themselves. If he had smiled maybe they would have dropped dead from shock. He sure made pimping look nothing like a charm contest. Those whores lit his cigarette. They took turns feeding him sips of his Coke. If he farted I bet they fought to ram their pretty noses up his ass. I froze. One of the white broads was whispering in his ear. Those unearthly gray eyes of his in their ebony sockets moved to staring at me. I raised my punch to thank him for the taste. I could hear the thud of those meat sledges from across the bar. I thought, "Christ Almighty! Mama darling, I hope my double hasn't put the muscle on this broad for some snatch or scratch. Please don't let this broad bum-finger me!"
He slid his terrible pearl-gray peepers off me. I saw him pound the bottom of his glass against the log. The Mexican broad expressed to him like pistol shot. He was rapping to her. She was nodding her head and looking down the log at me. My stomps on the stool rung were slamming together like the heels of a Flamenco Dancer. The jukebox was sobbing Lady Day's beef about her mean but sweet man. I wondered if I'd see the runt again. I wondered if I'd see any of them again. I wondered how soon they'd get their asses kicked if not. The couples in the booths were bug-eying the arena. It was maybe like when they fed the lions on fresh Christians. Who knows how many of them feed Christians never read the good book through either ? The cute tamale danced slowly toward me. She wasn't dressed in black and she had lost her scythe, but to me she looked pretty grim for once. Her face was tight and serious as she stood before me. She carried pity in her peepers. I guess she opposed capital punishment on the same grounds as eating people. She said, "Mr. Jones wants you to come to him. Pronto."
She turned and walked away. I staggered to my feet. I started hoofing that thousand miles to Mr. Jones. As I got close enough the overgrown cat snarled from under the stool. It pasted its yellow eyes on me. I jerked my eyes from the cat, and kept them riveted to the floor instead. It made me less dizzy. I was afraid to look into Sweet's glowing peepers up close. I knew I'd crap my pants. He whirled around on his stool, his back to the log. I glued my peepers to the tapping tips of his needle-toed patent leather stomps. I flinched at each crash of his huge hooks. He whispered, "nigger, you know who I am? Look at me when I'm spieling to you." I said, "Sure I know who you are Mr. Jones. You're the black God of the sporting world. Ain't a nigger alive, unless he's stupid and deaf, that ain't heard your fame and name ring. The reason I don't look at you is because I remember what happened to that sucker in the Bible that snitched a peep." His whores broke out into gales of laughter. Miss Peaches wasn't a lady. She broke wind and grinned. Those patent-leather toes stopped tapping. Could I be selling it?
He reached out and grabbed my chin. He held my head up and cupped it in his giant hook. I flexed my belly to take up the slack in my bowels. Those deadly gray slits almost slugged me into a dead faint. When he opened his jib I saw spidery webs of spit for an instant bridge his fat lips. He said, "Little nigger, who are you and where you from? You kinda look like me. Maybe I layed your Mammy, huh?" I said, "Mr. Jones, I'm nobody trying for somebody. Could be my Mammy went for you. What bitch wouldn't? She went for lotsa fellows." He laughed. Then he said, "nigger, you like fine white pussy? This dog of mine wants you to lay her. I give my whores what they want. You going to lay her for a double saw?" I looked the way he turned my head. The dog wasn't so doggish. Tell the truth, she was one fine looking broad. Legs to her neck, with perky titties and a slant eyed smile. I said, "Mr. Jones, I don't have that much on me." I looked like I was real sorry for it, too. They laughed like I was both Stanley and Oliver all rolled up in one. Sweet said "You'd be getting the saw, nigger. Not payin' it." I straightened myself out. "In that case Mr. Jones sir, how many times ?"
He was about to come back with something, to the tune of the peals of laughter spreading to the booths, when two rollers burst in. "Which one's Icebeck around here ?" hollered the fat one at the poor tamale. She shrugged with her palms away from her apron'd ass like she'd never heard of him before. Everyone was looking at each other. Sweet let go of my jaw, his eyes soft and searching now. "That you, little nigger ? Icebeck ?" I nodded. "How come every wanna-be mackin' nigger's saying his name by himself fifty zilion times before anyone asks for it, but you ain't said it yet and here's they looking for you by it ?" The policeman nodded to Sweet, then grabbed me by the shoulder and turned me around, my back to the log. "You Icebeck then ?" he quizzed me. "That's right." He nodded to his partner then said to me "Come along now. Cap'n Mahoney wants to speak with you." I followed them out, leaving behind a stunned silence. Before the doors swung open I heard Sweet behind me, "Motherfucker ain't even arrested".