Au revoir

I'll not be updating this blog any more. But I've not stopped writing. If you go over to, you'll find my latest fiction as well other posts relating to words, language and my life. So this is an "au revoir" and not a goodbye.


I know Mama didn't really like me sneaking into the saloon. But I also know that once there, she wouldn't send me home. Today was delivery day. That made it easy. I could get in through the hatch and up the stairs when Mama wasn't looking. But I didn't like the mustiness of the cellar, so I hung around until the men were finished and Mama went to check. I sneaked in through the front door and went straight to the corner table. As usual it was empty and I hid underneath. This was one of my favourite places. From here I could see everything – even things the grown-ups couldn't see. I could see the pretty, coloured garters some of the ladies wore round their ankles to get the men to buy them drinks. And I could see how some of the players used to hide cards until they needed them.

Mama soon came back in but I stayed under the table for a while yet. Then I saw Billy Scoopdug sidle up to her. That meant Mama would have her hands full. Once a week regular as clockwork he'd turn up at the bar and push his charms onto Mama. I was hiding in the corner by the counter once and heard him.

"Come on Sal... Ya know that man of yours won't dare show his face here again with the law round. Ya don't wanna stay tied to an outlaw all your life, do ya. Ya need someone to look after ya and the littl'un. A saloon like this ain't a proper place for a lady like you. Someone's gotta protect you."

I hated him for that. How dare he suggest that Papa wouldn't come back again. Mama'd have none him either. She'd listen to his talk with that well-we'd-best-stay-polite smile of hers, all the time filling him up with some yellowy water stuff that made him ill. Then she'd get one of the guys to chuck him out.

Well, seeing as Mama seeing as Mama was occupied I reckoned it safe to come out. The piano was ringing out full pelt and there was some dancing going on, so no one bothered about me. I went and stood besides the piano and old Mr. Powell gave me a wink. It was strange seeing him there, sleeves rolled up, a half-empty tankard on top of his piano, his whole body swinging along with the music. He didn't look at all like he did Sundays when he taught me Sunday School. He was the only one of the church crowd to come into our saloon. Mama had stopped going the day the preacher told everyone how Papa was a vicious outlaw and a good for nothing who'd never know how to reform.

Of course, some of the other people in town thought the same thing about Papa. But for most of us he was real hero. Sure, he sometimes took what didn’t belong to him. But he only did it to help the poor. He never kept anything for himself. And although, he was the best shot in the neighbourhood, he never killed or hurt anyone.

“You have to be a good shot, if you’re gonna do what you have to do without hurting people son. It takes some shooting to frighten people without touching them.”

I gave old Mr. Powell the thumbs up and was about to take a swig from his glass when I was whisked off my feet. It was Aunt Lilli and as she whirled around the floor with me, singing at the top of her voice I saw Mama raise her hands in that helpless way of hers. Lilli passed me on to one of the other girls, hitched up her skirt and started kicking up her legs. Everyone cheered at that; even Mama joined in.

If a silence could come to an end with a crash, then that's what I'd say now. That's the way it seemed to me anyway. The piano jolted to a halt and Lilli collapsed onto the floor. She turned as pale as old Mr. Powell's hair. The girl I was dancing with dropped me. Every eye fixed itself on the front door. I scrambled to my feet. I wanted to see for myself. A large, dark shadow towered over me. A pair of dark boots came towards me and two massive hands grabbed around my waist. I was catapulted up into the air, but I wasn’t afraid now. I’d recognised his tattoos. As I fell back down, I wrapped my arms around his neck and shrieked:


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