The Day I Learned What Gratuitous Meant

When I was in college I took a creative writing class. At the time I wanted to be a writer (getting back to that now). At the time I had started writing the first book that I would ever finish writing. It was a western and I didn’t think about what was and wasn’t appropriate when I wrote the first chapter. I just wanted someone to read it. So when I had the opportunity to turn a chapter in as a journal entry in week 1 I took it and handed in 10 pages.

By the end of the first page is a part that my friends still occasionally give me shit about. The main character is in a brothel and a point of conflict is a prostitute is working during her time of the month. Later in the story we understand more of why but the main character is young and does not react well to this. It’s a scene that introduces the working girls, the gunslingers, the bar keep, and the town.

After I turned in the paper I started to worry. I was understandably anxious and fear struck when the teacher started class by writing Gratuitous on the board in big red letters.

She went on to explain what it meant, how to avoid it in stories, and then she went on to the next lesson. We’d spent half the class period talking about what was and was not Gratuitous and I thought that I might get kicked out of the class. At the very least I thought I’d get a stern talking to. After class I asked her if that was because of me. She said yes. Then she told yes and I expected to be in trouble. But apparently it wasn’t. Apparently the way I’d written it was completely acceptable. I was shocked.

I have the first chapter of that story below. As well as a link to some of my other published works. I don’t currently list book entitled Stump on any websites because although I’ve finished it, I’ve always thought of it as practice.

Over the course of the semester and the follower semester I learned a lot from this teacher. Her name was Kimberly. She was the only teach I could remember from college and I had her my first year. I later went to school for business because it was a “better career path”.

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The cloudless sky allowed the full moon’s light to shine over the boom town so brilliantly that the candle lights from within the saloon barely stretched into the street that night. Within in the saloon many patrons sat gulping down their twenty five cent bottles of whisky served by maidens who weren’t quite whores or virgins either. Just off from the bar a young man joyfully tapped away at the keys of a piano. In middle of saloon half drunken farmers and wayward travelers danced with women, some of whom worked for the saloon. Other women accompanied the many patrons. In the back corner of the saloon four men gambled in a game of black jack each so drunk they could barely make out the numbers on their cards while they each debated whether or not to draw their pistols on one and other. On the far side of the saloon directly across from the door is the bar. Behind the bar hung a crudely painted well aged picture of a naked woman standing in front of a tree. Up the stair way just past the bar was a small section of four rooms; two of which were reserved for guests who wish to pay the seventy cents a night for a hard cot a ragged dirty sheet and near rotting food. The other two rooms were reserved for the whores. Four of them worked the men down stairs to make their living while paying a portion of each sale to the saloons owner.
Charles Goodman, known by his father as Stump, sat in the first room with his palms shaking in excitement as the young redhead in front of him slowly danced while removing her cloths. He ripped off his shirts and removed his pants with haste. She undid her corset and moved herself on top him. He touched her breasts as her corset fell to the hardwood floor. Then Stump flipped her onto her back and slid his fingers over her vagina, up across her small belly, and up to her breast. As he pressed his penis into her vagina he noticed a streak of blood leading from the woman’s crotch to her breasts. He slid himself back and looked down at her bloodied vagina in fear turned to anger. Franticly he grabbed the woman’s green dress and began to attempt to scrub the woman’s blood off his penis while yelling, “Bleeding bitch. You aint getin no money!”
The woman pushed herself away from Stump pressing her back against the wooden backboard of the bed. She curled into the fetal position and began to weep as she screamed, “Clara!”
Near immediately an older blond near forty burst through the doorway along with another young brunet woman. Each dressed in red dresses with corsets and frills along their near fully exposed breasts. The older woman, Clara, held a two barreled shotgun. Pointing the gun at Stump she yelled, “The hells goin on in here!” as she pulled back the two hammers on the gun.
Stump pulled up his pants and said, “Your whore is dirt nasty,” as he began to do up his belt buckle.
“She’s a fine whore well worth more than what ya’ll are payin,” said Clara as she took step towards Stump. 
“Bleedin whore,” said Stump ignoring the shotgun and flipping his dirty brown shirt on.
“Bleedin? Liar! My girls don’t work dirty!” said Clara as the whore next to her moved over to the red head on the bed who still cried neglecting to make eye contact at anyone in the room.
The brunet whore grabed the legs of the red head and spread them open looking at her crotch. Her pale face said it before her mouth, “Hers time of the month Clara.”
With a booming voice Clara took a step towards the bleeding whore, “The hell you doing working while bleedin Barb?” now pointing the shot gun at the red head, “Get dressed and get out!”
“Rebecca! Treat this man,” said Clara, bringing a smile to Stumps face, “No charge.”
The brunet said, “Yes maim,” while helping the red head quickly into her dress.
 “Well I recon I deserve me a drink too. For all the troubles.”
“Rebecca, get his gent a drink when he’s done. Add it to my tab.”
Then Clara followed the red head out into the hall way closing the door behind them. As the red head attempted to make her way down the stairs Clara grasped her by her hair and yanked her back down the hallway, away from the view of the patrons in the saloon. The red head yelped in pain as Clara said, “Now you know betta than to do that.”
“Please no Clara!” said the red head attempting to resist Clara’s pull. For her size Clara is unusually strong. Barb’s attempt at resistant was useless.
After reaching the end of the hall Clara slaped the red Barb and then placed a hand firmly on Barb’s throat saying, “You tryin to kill our business Barb?”
“No,” Barb struggled to squeeze out of her mouth.
“Then why you trying to work during your time. You know better!” A man renting the nearby room for the night poked his head out of the doorway to see what the commotion was about drawing Clara’s attention. She pointed the shotgun in his direction, like she’s done a dozen times, “The hell you lookin at?” she said and as curious patrons always do he left the whore to their business.
The man closed the door and Barb said, “Maim I won’t do it again I promis.”
“Dammed right it won’t,” said Clara slapping Barb across the face again, this time being sure to open her palm as to make this slap louder that the rest had been before it.
“Please Clara don’t hurt me I needed the money.”
“Need the money?” said Clara forcing Barb to the floor and smashing her on the top of the head with the butt of the gun. Barb let out a painful wail and bits of blood began to spill into her hair.
“No, please no. I just wanted.”
“Your lucky no one wants to fuck a beat up whore!” said Clara awhile she eased the hammers of the shotgun back down so that the gun would not fire if the trigger was pulled, “Go.”
“Thank you,” said Barb throwing herself into Clara’s legs and wrapping her arms around them.
“You go clean up yourself and come back to clean up the saloon like you’re supposed to during your time! I’m giving your shifts to Marry-sue!” said Clara kicking Barb off of her legs and onto the wooden floor. Barb sat on the floor for a moment feeling the warm wood on her bottom while gaining a small smile thinking that Clara would forgive her until Clara yelled, “Well get!” frightening Barb and sending her scurrying out of the hallway and down into the saloon.
John Goodman; who generally goes only by Goodman, sat alone at a small table keeping his eyes on his drink and his hat tipped down in order to hide his face. Barb comes stumbling down the stairs nearly falling as she reaches the bottom looking like a mess. He scraped his boots against the floor and poured himself another shot of whisky. The whisky bottle was already near empty, only three to four shots left and he’d had the bottle for about an hour. Goodman checked his pockets ensuring that he has his coin purse, his single action colt, and his ammo.
One of the young men sitting at the gambling table pulled out his pistol with a drunken sloppy motion. He eased back the hammer in his shaky hand aiming at a small painting on the wall just behind the man across from him. Black smoke bellowed from the barrel of his gun as he fired. Afterwards the black smoke lingered in the air around them. The painting is of a ship sailing in the ocean, bullet holes already covered much of its canvas; it was a common target. The young man had just fired a shot hitting the wall next to it and drawing the attention of everyone in the Saloon. There was a tension for a moment; Goodman immediately placed his right hand on his pistol ready for a fight.
He stayed calm while watching the older bearded man across from the young man who fired stand and walk around behind the young man. The bearded man flipped out his pistol and with a steady hand fried a shot into the hull of the ship. Smoke from the pistol added to the lingering gunpowder floating in the air around the table. The men at the table laughed and the young man tossed a few coins onto the table. The older bearded man said, “Now who’s the hot shot?” then laughed as he took his seat.
Goodman took another shot before forgetting his leftover whisky on the table. He walked through the small dance floor to the stairs and looked up in curiosity. Clara looked down at him with an angry gaze. She held her shot gun at her side, slightly tilting it to ensure that Goodman would notice it on her person. He did, he’s been here before, and he knows how it all works. He grabbed the tip of his hat and tipped it down at her then gave her a smile with his many broken rotten teeth. She chuckles and says, “Which.”
“Oh I aint here for that,” he replied beginning to step up the stairs.
“No?” Clara said looking over her old friend and wondering why Goodman’s son Stump would treat himself to a girl but Goodman would not, “What ya here for then?”
“My associate was with that there red head,” Goodman said as he stopped to bend over on the stairs to pick up a small piece of blue ribbon. Clara doesn’t respond. Lifting it he felt its silky smooth fabrics reminding him of his ex-wife’s old ribbons, “One of yours?”
“One of the girls,” replied Clara reaching out for it.
Goodman reached the top of the stairs and handed her the ribbon, “He’s called Stump. He make that there girl go running off like that?”
“Na. She did that to herself,” Clara replied stuffing the ribbon in-between her breasts to draw Goodman’s view to her cleavage, “Gave him another girl. He’ll be out soon.”
“Now how’s a girl make herself run off in tears?”
Clara looked away and chuckled, “You wouldn’t believe it.”
“Well I recon I might,” he replied as he took the last step of the stairs and stumbled into the hallway.
Clara caught him and helped him back to his feet before asking, “Why is it every time you come in here you’ve got a different group of young boys with ya?”
“Don’t change it,” he said regaining his balance, “What’d that boy do to your girl?”
“Nothin. She did it to him,” Clara removes her hands from Goodman, “She sold her self during her time.”
“Her time?”
“She was bleedin,” Clara said with a smile wanting to laugh.
Shocked Goodman said, “The hell you smilin about. That sick.”
She continued to smile, “That’s why he got a free lay and she got a beatin.”
“Well I recon they both got what they deserved.”
“Why didn’t you bring those two lads from yesterday with ya’s again?” Clara asked as she leaned against the wall.
Goodman pulled a cigarette from his jacket along with a match box and flipped a match to light his cigarette as Clara said, “Well, where are they?”
Goodman lit his cigarette taking a long puff before he replied, “Be patient. All I did was light up a cigarette.” He took another puff and Clara looked at him impatiently awaiting an answer. “They needed their sleep tonight. I bought them each two girls yesterday. That’s plenty.”
“And what about yourself,” she asked as she pulls back her dress to reveal her right leg as she gave him a smile she’s always thought to be sexy. She doesn’t present herself to most men. These day’s she mostly just takes care of her girls.
“No thanks. Had enough yesterday,” he said before taking a long puff of his cigarette.
Clara rolled her eyes and replied; “Now that’s a joke. No man I ever known didn’t want to fuck.”
“Need all the energy I’ve got for tomorrow.”
“Can’t complain I suppose,” she said putting her leg back into her dress and pulling out a cigarette of her own, “You bring me enough youngins to keep in business.”
Goodman lit a match and held it out to light Clara’s cigarette. As she lit her cigarette he said, “How much longer you think? Gotta get going.”
“I haven’t heard a peep out of them since I got done with Barb. Probably a quickie,” She took another puff, “I could check for you if you’d like.”
“No I-” Goodman began to say as the door opened and Stump stumbled out. Goodman turned his head towards Stump and nodded to show approval. Stump smiled and pated Goodman on the shoulder as he began his way down the stairs. Rebecca exited the room holding a small grey cat which she’d picked up on her way out of the room.
Clara smiles at Rebecca and asks, “Where’d you find her?”
“Under the bed. She hoped out just after we finished,” The cat purred and Goodman started down the stairs after Stump.
“Don’t forget to stop and see Hadley,” said Clara.
“Got no need for him tonight,” Goodman responded.
“Ya’ll come back now!” said Clara waving the two men good bye.
They exited the saloon and moved to the horses tied up outside. A brown horse, full-grown but noticeably smaller than the rest stood at the far end of the horses. It was heavily loaded with multiple saddle packs a rifle and ammunition. Goodman approached the horse and struggled to raise himself up onto the saddle. Stump approached the larger horse next to Goodman’s. A tall jet black horse who’s muscular body easily made a dwarf of Goodman’s small horse. Untying the reins from the troth in front of the saloon he mounted his horse and let loose a chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” said Goodman as he trotted his horse out into the road.
Grinning Stump pranced his horse up next to Goodman’s, “Just your horse. Gets me every time I look at her.”
Goodman patted his horse and replied, “She’s a good girl. Faster than she looks and more obedient that that there stag of yours.”
“She’s fast alright but not much faster than she looks. Bullet here could out run her easy.”
Goodman waited a few moments to respond as they slowly exited the town leaving only footprints behind them. They are shadowless in the midnight light. Looking up at Stump Goodman finally said, “Old Sally here might get beaten in the start but Bullet wouldn’t out last her at a distance.”
Stump rubbed Bullets main, “Don’t listen to him Bullet. He’s just jealous.”
“A shit!” exclaimed Goodman as he quickly looked around his horses saddle bags.
“Forget your whisky Pa?”
Goodman looked up at Stump with a hateful gaze, “Yes. An don’t you be callin me Pa. Thought I broke you a that!”
Stump looked down as his horses back while the two continued to ride out of town. The two men continued without talking for near a mile south of town. The open fields of rolling overgrown grass and wheat with the occasional tree scattered from place to place shook as the wind rolled over them. Stump kept his eyes on his horse and the trail while Goodman let loose his reins and looked up at the stars above him. The skies were clear, perfect for star gazing. 
“You make me nervous buying me whores ya know?” said Stump.
“That right?” said Goodman still watching the stars.
“Yep,” Stump looked at Goodman, “It’s exactly what you do a few days before you kill you associates.”
Goodman laughed and looked at Stump, “Think I’m fixin to do you in boy?”
“No sir,” Stump replied placing his hand on his colt while they entered a small forest.
“Good. Be too hard to find another partner to continue business as usual.”
“I suppose that’s reason enough not to worry,” Stump replied slowly removing his hand from his colt.
“Haven’t lost your stomach for the plan, have you?”
“No, I ju-”
“Quiet boy,” said Goodman as he quickly pulled up his rifle and aimed into the edge of the dark forest in front of them, “I heard a noise.”
“Rubbish,” said Stump pulling up his colt pistol and slowing Bullets pace.
Goodman stopped Sally’s trot and with his rifle on his shoulder he fired a bullet into a nearby tree causing a loud echoing bang to busts from the gun followed by a blow of black smoke. Then he quickly flipped the rifles lever down to expel the shell and load the second bullet. From behind the tree Goodman’s bullet hit slowly exited a short chubby man with a long scraggly beard. He said, “What the hell ya’ll firing at.”
“Lou?” said Goodman lowering his gun.
“Yeah Lou!” Lou said, “Who’d you think it was?”
“The hell you doing so far from camp?”
“Don’t like pissin where people can see,” Lou said as he begans walking away from the edge of the woods towards Goodman, “Bring the whisky like ya said?”
Stump put away his colt and gave Bullet a little kick causing him to walk forward towards the trees in front of him, whose branches had just begun to bud and form leaves. Goodman put his rifle back into its holster on the horse then reached into his pocket for a cigarette. He slid his hand around the sandy bottom of his little coat pocket unable to recover any already rolled cigarettes. Sighing he asks Lou for a cigarette while Stump passes Lou shooting him a smug smile.
Lou’s face went rotten, “You said you’d have my whisky! Where’s my drink?!” he said as he pointed his right finger at Goodman.
Goodman tapped his heels on Sally and she began to slowly trot forward while he reached into an overstuffed saddle pouch. Lou yelled, “Well!” as Goodman passed him and pulled out a dirt smeared bottle. Lou quickly hoped to the bottle and snatcheed it from Goodman’s hand. He opened hastily and took a few gulps then yelled at the top of his lungs, “YEEEEEHA!!” and continued to suckle on the alcohol.
Stump slowed Bullets pace allowing Goodman to catch up. He turned back surprised by the yell, “The victory bottle?”
“Yep,” Goodman replied with a sorrowful look on his face, “He’ll suck every drop. Won’t be able to see straight come morning.”
“Aint that bad?”
“Na, good to keep a man happy before he dies,” said Goodman looking back at Lou still guzzling the alcohol. He knows that Lou’s bad hearing will prevent him from hearing most if not all of Goodman and Stump’s words, “Long as he wakes up in time tomorrow.”
“Don’t suppose he heard us talkin before you spotted him do ya?”
“Well if he heard us, we won’t be waking up.”
Lou slowly began making his way back towards camp and doing his best to empty the bottle while Stump and Goodman slowly approached the camp after traveling a few hundred feet past Lou. 
A small fire smoldered near extinguished and a wrinkled man slept leaned against an over turned tree nearby. Two horses laid on the ground asleep with their reins tied to a tree next to them. One white with brown spots and the other a dark brown, both of moderate size. A small unlit lantern hung from a tree limb near the man lying on the ground. 
Stump dismounted Bullet and tied him to a tree. He pat the horse on the head and then quickly pulled his saddle and saddle bags off of Bullets back. Gently he set them on the ground next to Bullet separating his bedroll from the rest of his things. Then Stump grabbed bullets reins and gave them a hard yank downward signaling Bullet to lay down.
“Should treat him better,” said Goodman as he dismounted and gently removed his saddle and bags from Sally's back. Stump didn’t respond he just knelt and rolled out his old bedroll; he’s herd the comment too many times to care. Goodman removed the reins from Sally and laid them on the ground before rolling out his bedroll next to Stump’s. Sally slowly began to wonder into the woods disappearing in the darkness.
“Where’s she go when you let her loose?” asked Stump as he laid down throwing a cotton blanket over top of himself.
Goodman laid down and said, “There’s a stream just south of here. Mile, mile and a quarter. She likes the fresh water. She’ll be back by morning.”
Minutes later as just before Goodman drifted to sleep Lou stumbled into the camp inebriated and nearly fell into the smoldering coals. He took a seat next to the old man, “Ray… Ray… Shhhhhhhhhhhh… Ray!”
Ray awakened and angrily said, “What?”
“I goats the, the,” Lou said holding up the bottle for Ray to see. He was so drunk he was having trouble talking. Getting him that drunk didn’t take much.
Ray reached out slowly and grabbed it then took a quick sloppy drink slightly spilling some of the alcohol causing it to drool down his beard. “Well that’ll wake you up,” he said before wiping his mouth on his sleeve and taking another drink. Lou began to sing a slurred song that could barely be recognizable as Burry me out on the lone prairie. Ray joined in and as nearly an hour passed the two men finished the bottle and slumped over one and other mumbling and passing out. All the while Stump laid patiently awaiting silence to reach him so that he may sleep. Goodman took the time to roll himself more cigarettes to refill his case.
“I’ll be happy to see those two drunkards in the dirt,” said Stump as he covered his face with his hat.
“Aint nothin wrong with likin a drink boy. Ray an Lou deserve their fun, let them have it while they can,” said Goodman.
“I just hope they arnt too wrecked to do their jobs in the morning.”
“All they gotta do is ride. I’d rather they miss with every shot anyhow,” said Goodman as he closed his eyes having felt his mind slip away to sleep, “Night boy.”
“Night Pa,”
“Don’t call me Pa,” The word Pa awakened Goodman.
"Why not?"
"Cuz I done told you not to!"
Stump rolled over onto his side facing away from Goodman. The night wass calm, the spring air was cool almost near a chill. The four men slumbered, each with a gun nearby and dreams of tomorrows riches dancing in their dreams. Stump hopes for complements from his father while Goodman, Lou, and Ray only hope for piles of cash.

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