Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction

December 1924 - Cotton Club By Erika Blazevic

Star Tavern was full of drunks and dancers in the early morn, ragtime echoing on the phonograph. Bodies being swung around in a chaotic fashion, Battenberg flapper dresses cutting the air as they twist to the beat of the music. The pub was dimly lit, with only the faint glow of candles on the walls to guide the partygoer from the bar to the dancefloor.

A toilet door hid tubs full of freshly brewed moonshine, underneath the floorboards behind the 3rd stall which was ‘Out Of Order’. The herd of cries and laughter could be heard from down the street, its clamorous chorus filling the dead of night with noise, but that was just another blind tiger around the corner.

Betty Mayfield had been a conservative woman by day, tending to those with fragile minds as a Social Worker, but by night she was a free bird, with no man and no mother to educate her on the etiquette of being a lady. Her independence led her to a blind pig, and the same venue persuaded her to buy a pearl-beaded dress which she threw on every night along with her matching gloves, cloche hat and rogue on her cheeks.

Her personality also changed, the music soothed her, and all of her worries would fly away after a few glasses of alcohol. When she wasn’t under the influence of liquor she was throwing herself at books and files – documenting the progress of her patients. Some were uncooperative with the medicines, but she understood how schizophrenia affected the brains; she had studied psychiatric institutions for years.

“Hey Doll, I was wonderin’ if you’d like to accompany me on a date ‘round town?” Robert Wade asked Betty regularly – they had both been common customers at the Cotton Club. This usually occurred early into the night, but by then Robert would have already drowned himself in moonshine.

“How about you go mind your own business, Rob. Can’t you see I’m not interested?” She would push away, sitting at the bar stool with her drink on the table. Each night Robert asked he’d get more drunk, because each night that Robert asked, he got rejected with more force.

“C’mon, just dance with me!” Robert would insist, reaching out for Betty’s arm.

“Leave me be. I’m not in the mood.” Betty resisted, but eventually she’d give in to his charming smile and they’d dance in each other’s arms, both unaware of the lives they’d go back to the next morning. The songs started to merge together, and world around them blurred into a fuzzy mess and they danced, hands entwined and lips closing in on each other’s. And that was that, a romance that would last only a night. Arm in arm, they stumbled over to the 3rd stall, falling into the bathtub with harrowing giggles.

“You’ll be alright, trust me.” Betty would calm her patient, restraining them in the bathtub. She’d have sweet memories of Robert in the mind as she left the patient’s head exposed in the scorching water. As the patient screamed in agony, she would only remember the taste of the moonshine on his lips at the Cotton Club.

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