A Story of the West
Copyright 2011 by Valerie Byron
Lola? Of course not. Of course it wasn’t her real name. You don’t have to tell me anything about women, no sir! And if you want to know why it wasn’t her real name, I’ll tell you. Lola is a “type,” not a name, and it would be a mighty clever mother and a mighty disillusioned one who could picture the kid she was suckling grown up and twenty-one.
But I’m not telling you about Lola. I’m telling you about June and Judy and Bill and me. It just happened that we were having a bit of a celebration down at Just Johnnie’s to mark Lola being there a year, and that’s the night we all got together.
Just Johnnie? Why, everyone called him that. I’ve seen one or two storekeepers at Half Way, but they have a habit of disappearing when they start any crooked deals with the boys. I reckon that in towns you have more law and order, and more dishonesty, but out West where everyone carries half the law in his own holster, you’re kind of helped to run straight because if you don’t, you’re for it, and everyone knows it.
But Johnnie was a straight guy, a little fellow with a heart of gold. Yes sir. When you were in a jam, he chalked you up, and kept your respect by seeing you paid as soon as things were running smooth again. He was a wise guy, too; eased you off the liquor so as you didn’t notice it if you got too far on the way to making a fool of yourself, and kept his prices right and traded fair with everyone. We all reckoned it was a lucky day when he took over and another lucky day for the boys when he got Lola to help him out with the stores and the drinks.
Mind you, son, as I said before, her real name wasn’t Lola. It was – well, never you mind what it was; I guess we can all make mistakes at times, and her mother was no exception. But when we took a look at her, we could hardly believe our eyes; and when Johnnie said, just like he was stating a fact, “Your name’s Lola,” she just grinned and said, “OK, it’s as good as any other,” and went on with her job.
What did she look like? Well, I’m telling you she was Lola, aren’t I? You know, not too big and not too little, dark hair, a figure like the dream in the last shot at the bottom of a whisky bottle, and wore her clothes like she’d been melted and poured into them. I guess she wouldn’t have looked much different without them, and that’s what the boys thought too. Her eyes were always laughing, and she had red lips, just like the tropical fruits the wise guys write about in books.
Hell, I said to myself, when they dished it out, you certainly took your plate up twice; but oh boy, how long will you last?
But I was wrong, son, I was wrong. She certainly had a way with her, and with the boys, but there was never any trouble. She always had time to listen or to help with those jobs not made for men’s hands; she knew when to talk and, more important, when to keep her mouth shut; and she knew the jokes to laugh at, the jokes to ignore, and the jokes to turn her back on. She knew all the answers, but never offended anyone, not even after his second bottle, and she always looked clean and neat and tidy.