As riverboats go the Ghost of Stephen Foster weren’t much to look at but when you is a gamblin’ man fixin’ ta soon enough have the constabulary on yer trail, any riverboat headin’ anywhere they ain’t is a fine choice.
It also needs sayin’ if you in New Orleans an’ lookin’ fer someplace to lay yer head, the Hotel Paradise ain’t much to look at neither but when yato look at neither but when youd I reckoned I had a need to defend mine. got jest about two bits a night ta spend on lodgin’, in a city where ain’t much comes cheap, it makes a fair good choice too.
I reckon the only real connection betwixt the two was the Ghost happened to be docked at the old quay behind the Paradise the selfsame night some greenhorn called me out fer cheatin’ at cards when an unfortunate turn of circumstances had three aces in his hand an’ there I sat with three aces in my own hand. Now, I ain’t sayin’ I were cheatin’ an’ I ain’t sayin’ I weren’t but, when push come to shove, a man’s only got him one reputation so ya can see I had me no choice but to give that greenhorn two .38 caliber shame-on-you’s from my trusty derringer.
Now bein’ as it were a Saturday night an’ the Paradise don’t sit in no good quarter o’ the city, it weren’t like I had to hightail it outta there real immediate-like but there were some speed called for. I lit out fer my room an’ was back down ta the bar in nigh under five minutes. Gamblin’ man don’t never travel real heavy or unpack too much so that weren’t so much of a much. A quick glance at my daddy’s pocket watch give me ta believe I had jest enough time for a bit of a libation an’ ta settle up my tab with Ole Frenchie afore gettin’ on that riverboat.
Now lest ya be wonderin’ how I knowed that there boat were even there at all, I expect I should add the durned bastards had woke me up off a two-day bender that very mornin’ when they docked. Agin’, mebbe it’s me bein’ a gamblin’ man but I had a itch tole me I best know when that there boat were fixin’ ta paddle on out. I’d taken care of that detail just afore settin’ my ole bones down ta the cards. But, let’s get this here story back on track, eh?
Now me an’ Ole Frenchie done crossed paths a time or two an’ while she sure as Hell were a whore an’ smoked ceegars like a man, she weren’t one ta judge anybody fer their evil doin’s. She jest sidled on up ta the bar, knowin’ my intent, and poured me a tall glass o’ the most vile rotgut hooch ta ever cross a man’s lips. I favored her with a bow fit an’ downed the drink.
She chuckled at my discomfited look afore pourin’ me another and leanin’ cross the bar ta favor me with a view of two o’ the world’s finest wonders. I did my gentlemanly best ta not gawk as I took handed over more than enough money ta cover my room, the drinks and the…inconvenience of leavin’ a dead man layin’ on her floor.
Her practiced hand made them greenbacks disappear an’ she took a long draw on her ceegar afore she spoke, “Mon cher, whyfore you can’t never stay a place long enough for me to make you not want to go? You has barely arrived and already for leaving Ole Frenchie again.” Her pout was plumb delightful.
“Ma chou”, says I, “Ships is made for sinkin’, whiskey’s made for drinkin’ and Nathaniel Bedford Slade is made ta be a man on his way somewhere all the time.”
This story was written for the weekly Mid-Week Blues-Buster flash fiction writing challenge and is loosely based on the song The Ghost of Stephen Foster by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.