The Gentleman Callers
Updated: Jan 30, 2022
By Waldron Caldwell/Lynda Durrant
Next Book No. Four of Wild Parsley
Alvin Holcombe, Cookham’s new judge, shuffled the deck of cards. He had had the maids insert all three leaves into his massive dining table to accommodate the three visiting city council members, the mayor, the sheriff, Roosevelt, and Monroe Junior. Alvin dealt each man in the game five cards. The other men watched as they smoked their Cuban cigars.
“Alvin, you a judge. I ain’t seein’ why you and the sheriff cain’t do nuttin’ bout them damn Nesbitt sisters,” Monroe Junior said and leaned his chair back on two legs. “They mean as hell.
“And I gots another piece of news for y’all. One of ‘em’s locked and loaded.”
“Well, shit fire and save the matches, don’t tell me it’s Elisabeth. She’s hard to handle on a good day,” Mayor David Eaves stated and looked around the table at the other men. The men could tell from his facial expression the thought of an armed Elisabeth Nesbitt left him discontent. And maybe a little scared.
Monroe put his chair back to the floor and shook his head. “No, but good guess.”
“Well, which one?” the mayor asked.
Monroe Junior sat moving his head side to side, his hand clasped twiddling his thumbs looking at the men like he had a secret and they had to guess.
“Well?” a councilman asked, “are you going to tell us?”
Monroe Junior smiled. “It’s Ava.”
“Ah, pfft,” Roosevelt said, “Ava’s as sweet as they come. Don’t be spreading rumors, Monroe.”
Monroe slapped the table. “I swear to God, it’s true. I sold ‘er the gun.”
Alvin shrugged. “Why would Ava want a gun, Monroe?”
“Said she had coyotes at the farm she wanted to shoot. I don’t have to ask what they buy ‘em for, you know.”
“Well, if it’s Ava, I’m not concerned, and maybe they do have coyotes out on their farm. Sounds logical to me,” the mayor said and relaxed in his chair. “Can somebody pass me a lighter? These Cubans don’t stay lit very well.
“By the way, aren’t these illegal? Didn’t we cut off trade with Cuba?”
“If you don’t tell, I ain’t,” Monroe Junior said and picked up his cards.
“Did Ava get her concealed weapons permit?” the sheriff chimed in.
“It ain’t my job to know,” Monroe Junior said. “That there falls under law enforcement.”
The sheriff nodded. “I’ll check it out. I’m sure it’s fine.”
“All y’all can sit here and act like y’all don’t know they growing weed in that big barn. But y’all know,” Monroe said and looked at them as though he was going to get an answer.
The men shrunk and pretended to not hear what just came out of Monroe’s mouth.
“Mr. Judge Alvin, cain’t something be done about them?” Monroe insisted.
Alvin looked up from his cards and gave Monroe the look that said he must have lost his mind. “Are you serious? You actually want me to do something to one of them? Are you forgetting I’m married to one of them, the worst one I might add. She even had me put in jail.”
Monroe threw up his hands. “I’m jus’ sayin’. That Elisabeth came ova to our house and broke my daddy’s arm.”
The sheriff grunted. “He deserved it, Monroe. Your daddy hit your mother. Domestic violence is a crime.”
One of the councilmen tapped his cigar on the ashtray. “If you gentlemen want to talk about problems in Cookham, let’s talk about the ambulance service in town.”
“What about it?” Another councilmen asked.
“Are you kiddin’ me?” Monroe said. “We got the funeral home competing with the rescue squad to carry people to the hospital.”
The sheriff gave Alvin a nod. “That is a problem.”
“You damn right it’s a problem,” Monroe said. “How would you like to call an ambulance and get picked up in a hearse?”
Roosevelt laid down two cards and chuckled. “That there is funny.”
Alvin put down three cards and dealt Roosevelt two. “Monroe, how many cards you want?”
“I be needin’ one.”
Alvin threw one card to Monroe. “You know, Roosevelt. I honestly think you got the pick of the bunch when you married Gertie. She’s the kindest woman, next to my mother, I’ve ever come across. Not a mean bone in her body.”
“Uh huh, who you think is the leader of them women?”
Alvin gaped. “No. Not that sweet Gertie.”
“Oh, yeah, she’s the only one that’s got any control over that crazy ass Elisabeth. The other sisters don’t never question Gertie neither.”
“Good God man, how do you live on that farm with all of them?” Alvin asked. “Well, minus the one I live with.”
Roosevelt folded. “You learn to keep yo’ head down and say yes. A lot.”
“Alvin!” came a voice from the stairwell, “don’t forget we have that birthing class tonight. Do I smell smoke? If I come down there and somebody’s smoking, their ass better be on fire!”
Alvin’s face turned to terror. “Oh, good grief, Satan’s awake. Quick boys, put out those cigars. Monroe, get the spray.”
“Me?” Monroe asked. “You got maids.”
Alvin shot Monroe a grin and shouted, “Only Monroe is smoking, Dumplin. I tried to get him to put it out.”
Monroe jerked to attention and picked up the spray and started spraying the entire room. “That ain’t right, Alvin. That jus’ be wrong.”
“Better your ass, than mine, Monroe.”
The sheriff cleared his throat. “You know, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I hear that ole Mr. Fryer and his wife; they have to be close to eighty if not older, had to go to the hospital and get treated for an STD.”
“You kidding,” the mayor said. “Who gave it to who?”
“Mr. Fryer? Is he that old man that raises chickens? You know, my mama got sick after she eat some eggs from his place. I hope you don’t say he be fucking his chickens.”
The sheriff swatted at Monroe. “No. I heard he got it from his wife who got it from the preacher of the First Baptist Church. Y’all know who I’m talking about. The one who they refer to as the Baptist Jailbird.”
“Ooh,” a councilman said, “that makes my groin hurt. I feel like I need to get a shot of antibiotics just hearing it.”
“Why? You been screwing old Mrs. Fryer, too?” Monroe asked.
The councilman looked at Alvin. “We need to put Monroe out.”
“We have to wrap it up soon, anyway,” Alvin said in a disappointing tone. “I have to go with Patience to that birthing class.”
“I don’t get that neither,” Monroe said and folded his hand. “If she already had a baby, why she got to take a class on how to have a baby?”
Alvin gave him a grim look. “I can call her down here, and you can ask her, if you’d like.”
“Oh, hell no, don’t put that pack of wolves on me.”
Roosevelt laughed. “No, you sure don’t want that. Elisabeth still lookin’ fo’ yo’ daddy. The reason she broke his arm is cause he shot her-right in the ass.”
The men heard footfalls from the stairwell, and all went silent. Around the corner, a pregnant Patience appeared. Her facial expression was not an affectionate one.
“This room stinks. I knew I smelled smoke down here. A bunch of gossiping men down here clucking like an old hen house.”
“Now, Lambchop, we agreed I could use the dining room until my den was finished. Remember, we agreed that I would give up the space by your front home office for a downstairs nursery and move my den upstairs.”
Patience looked at her watch. “The party’s over. We have a class in under an hour and you’re not even dressed properly.”
“Alvin’s whipped,” Monroe whispered.
Patience narrowed her eyes and focused on Monroe. “I hear tell your daddy shot my sister. I don’t even know why you’re in my house anyway. Why don’t I give her a call and tell her you’re here?”
Roosevelt slid down in his seat. “Here we go.”
Monroe squared his shoulders. “Elisabeth don’t even like you, Patience.”
Patience pointed at him. “You don’t worry about the business between me and my sister. What you need to worry about is how quick my sisters can get over here when I call and tell them I’m being harassed by you.” Patience held her arm out toward Alvin. “Give me your phone, Alvin.”
Alvin quickly stood to reach her his phone. “I don’t think it’s necessary to throw him out, Dumplin.”
Patience turned to Alvin. “My breasts are drying up an inch for every second these men are in my house.”
Alvin slapped his hands together and gave the men a double clap. “Boys, it’s time to go. You heard the lady; we have to get to our birthing class. Pick up your things. Come on, come on. Let’s see some hustle.
Puzzled, the men all grabbed their things as Alvin ushered them to the door.
Pushed out on the stoop like an outside cat, the men who had them straightened their jackets and donned their hats. Monroe Junior threw on his baseball cap and turned it backwards.
“Hey, it’s still early,” Monroe Junior said, “why don’t we cruise the drive-in movie?”
Mayor Eaves shook his head no. “Nothing but trouble over there in that sin pit.”
“Come on,” Monroe said, “it’s Wednesday night. Church be lettin’ out soon and all them Christians goin’ be ova there getting’ they worship on. And you know they gonna stay for midnight mass, if y’all know what I mean.” Monroe elbowed Roosevelt in the side.
“Midnight’s when the flicks turn porno,” the mayor said. “Count me out.”
“Monroe, midnight mass is where the Catholics go on Christmas Eve,” the sheriff said and looked at Monroe with a wrinkled face.
“Yeah,” Monroe replied, “and you go ova to the midnight screen at the drive-in and you’ll find the Baptists, Methodist, and the Catholics. Ever Wednesday night. They go pray for fo’giveness fo’ what they about to do. I see it. Don’t tell me none of y’all ain’t been to the drive-in at midnight.”
Mayor Eaves shifted his weight from side to side. “Well, maybe when I was young, but I have a reputation to uphold.”
“Well, we can stuff you in the trunk then you can crawl out after we get parked. Nobody’s gotta know.” Monroe lifted his arms and let them fall to his side. “I’ve seen you get outta the trunk befo’.”
The councilmen got into their cars and left, bidding the other men a good evening.
“See, they going to the flicks,” Monroe said.
“You don’t know that!” Mayor Eaves said.
Monroe stepped back. “I got five dollars sayin’ if we drive ova there right now, we’ll pull in right behind those men who lead the city in they three-piece suits and tacky comb overs sittin’ in they car lusting at the screen.”
“You ain’t right, Monroe. Me and Gertie are good now and I’m a happy man. I ain’t doin’ it. I ain’t repeatin’ the mistakes I made.” Roosevelt stood shaking his head no.
The sheriff’s radio went off. He stepped over to his car and got inside. His voice carried over to the remaining men as white noise—there, but not fully audible. His head popped out of his car. He yelled over the roof.
“Roosevelt! We gotta go. Follow me in your truck. We’re heading to the farm.”
The urgency in the sheriff’s voice caused Roosevelt to hurry to his truck. Monroe hopped in the truck too. The sheriff turned on his blue lights and siren.
Roosevelt stayed on his bumper with Monroe holding on for dear life, getting thrown from side to side in the cab of the older truck.
Alvin stood in front of his full-length mirror admiring his casual chic attire. The sound of the sheriff’s siren caught his attention, so he ran to the window to check out what was going on.
“I hope it’s nothing serious,” he mumbled to himself.