Friday, August 2, 2013

Urban Chess

None of us knew her real name, but I don’t guess it really mattered much. She went by Morgan. As near as I know that was a reference to Captain Morgan since, like that distilled Heaven, she was dark, spicy and really not much good for you in excess. Seemed fitting whether it had any basis in reality or not. 

If there had been a poster girl for the ‘Don’t Hate the Player. Hate the Game” subculture, Morgan would have been right there. To Morgan, life was nothing more than oversized game of chess and, on this gritty urban board, she was the queen. The men, and sometimes women, who moved about and around her were little more than pawns to be maneuvered, manipulated, and ultimately sacrificed as need be for her benefit. To Morgan, as long as the queen was protected, the fate of the other game pieces was immaterial.

Morgan held court from a back corner table of Ballerz, one of those bars that, defiantly, refused to fit into any sort of niche but never lacked for clientele. It was a loud, smoky, ill-lit bastion of debauchery punctuated by the odors of spilled beer, stale piss and a disturbing miasma of scents most-often associated with illicit drugs of one sort or another. While the members of her court changed often and regularly, Morgan never sat alone.

In retrospect, I guess we should have realized it was going to be one of those “shit-hits-the-fan” moments when Pino came in looking for her. But, in all fairness, Ballerz wasn’t the kind of place where the odor of shit was immediately noticeable or particularly uncommon.

She’d been running Pino for a couple of months now and had yet to come out on the down side of the game. The ragtop Caddy in the lot we all knew was hers had been bought on Pino’s dime. Her wardrobe, her bling and, most likely, just about all of her not-inconsiderable needs were being met by the sweat of that poor bastard’s brow. For her part, we all figured she must have had some sort of feelings for him since the way they interacted made it pretty clear there was something more than simple greed and usury at work.

Morgan’s biggest, and most enduring, shortcoming was her singularly inability to leave well enough alone. No matter what fish she had on the line or how deep the hook was set, the bitch was always looking to trade up. Her latest contender for the position of king was Tommy “Thunderball” Jones. We didn’t know a whole lot about T-Ball and most of us were content to leave it that way. While his…affiliations were unconfirmed it was pretty damned straight to see by his muscles and his scars he was a guy accustomed to coming out ahead.

While Pino may not have been the brightest bulb on the tree…well, okay he was a freakin’ brick, it didn’t take him all that long to figure out something was up. So, when he came in that rainy, Saturday night we all did our best to find a vantage place well out of the coming shitstorm but still close enough to see what went down.

As close as we could get and as much as we like to think of ourselves as street-wise, nobody was ever really able to tell the cops exactly what went down next. When the lights went up, for maybe the first time in Ballerz checkered history, there were about half a dozen folks either bleeding out their last or already gone. Morgan took three rounds, I could see, and the shiv in her back made a nice exclamation point to the tale of her demise.

They buried her somewhere over on the west side and none of us I know of went to any kind of memorial service. Maybe one day, for old time’s sake, I’ll go try and figure out where they put here. If nothing else, to figure out what Morgan‘s real name was. I don’t guess we’ll ever know who she really was deep down inside, but I don’t guess that matters all that much either. She’s still just as dead.

This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster and is loosely based on the song You Know I'm No Good by Amy Winehouse.  


  1. I love the opening! It hooked me straight away with the description of her; very clever. You write with such realism and grit yet with a tone of despondency throughout. Is it wrong to be sad that she's dead? I like her! xx

  2. Like Lizzie says, your descriptions are so good, and always take us right there among the fray...not that I'd have liked to be in amongst this lot!