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Two Sides From a Flask
Prologue: An epic cultural controversy had unexpectedly arose amongst women in the 1920's. Even though women of all social status were able to band together to testify injustice, and earn their right to vote, most women were not prepared when some feminists found being given the privilege to vote, as being a doorway for woman to make more changes in society. These changes developed into flouting social and sexual norms. This breed of woman advocators weren't just any old group of female liberators, but were flappers. Young Johnnie,(pronounced like Joanie) has always secretly aspired to be amongst these liberators, but knows of the discrimination that accompanies the scandalous lifestyle of being a flapper. However, she is swayed into it, when another flapper; Imogene one days appears in her life, convincing her that this is what she needs. As Imogene shows the hesitant Johnnie the way, introducing her to other flappers of the club such as Marcella, Johnnie continues to attempt at fitting in, by learning the slang and terminology that only flappers could decipher. One day though, Johnnie finds herself in sticky situation when the prude wife of a regular customer comes, and confronts Johnnie's friend Imogene, while in the alleyway just outside the club where the flappers should be dancing. Now it's Johnnie's turn to tell her tale.
"Liberalism?" Viola outburst with sudden nastiness, as if too shove any apprehension about her safety while around us, right back onto our own shoulders. As if it were us that should be afraid of her, a twiggy match, with no friction to flame, something Imogene would think. She was staring me down and leaning in, as if I was so retched, just because I was the most pubescent looking one, in the alleyway. I felt it, she was addressing me.
"Don't be talkin' in that tone, if you wanna holler bout liberalism, then I'll teach you how to be liberalistic too, no need to be jealous!" Imogene replied in my defense confidently. She must have assumed that I was a bit hazed since I wouldn't stop stumbling, but from what I couldn't remember. It was Imogene who had been drinking from Marcella's flask.
"Jealous? Why,.. why,...", Viola Wells remarked, with dramatic exasperation, "Why, is that what we are calling it now a days? We normal and respectable women of society are jealous of this shenanigan word you call Liberalism! Why, you act as though you are planning to populate the entire villa, with your scandalous and exposure filled ethics, you...you.. You act as though you are some breed of mutt, you dog you. That is what you are, a female dog. A b****! A b**** with a dumpy bucket of a hat, tripping all about 11th avenue with your rollen' down hose , contempting natural values, you flat chested, hedonistic,-....hedonistic---"
Viola paused, as she knew not what to say next, she probably assumed the rumors to be true, that we, flappers, were uneducated, when in reality she was the one deprived of higher learning. I wanted to address her in the same manner that the girls would have addressed her; as being 'an old tomato.' I'd probably call her that term to her powdered face too, but she would've probably assumed that I was calling her a piece of red rotten vegetation, which I'm sure is what Imogene, next to me, was comparing her too, because of this broad's hair color. And after all, it's probably just like Imogene thinks; it is her kind that doesn't know how to respond to anything, if it ain't an invitation to some sophisticated dinner party. Oh, I meant to say grubstake. Goodness, I better get these terms down, if I want the Dapper and the girls' to lemme Jig, Shimmy, Bunny hug, Black bottom, do the Charleston with them , or even be part of the petting parties. Gettin' to this point in my life has been rough, but I took such ventures to feel liberated, being able to show that men have lost the privilege to lay a hand. Suddenly thinking of it all, I was lost for words.
Choosing to rebut this for me, Marcella, black flask in hand, kicked her shimmery dog kennels off her feet, stroked her smoke smelling coal curls, and spoke on my behalf. "Finish you old brute!"
"What did you just call me?" Mrs. Wells returned.
"What do you have to?" Imo asked fearlessly, a quality I wish I had, as Johnnie. "She did nothing wrong, heck none of us did!" I couldn't help but wonder if she was wrong though. As much as I saw her as a leader, a-never-do-wrong-doer, could it be that even she wrong, and that being in our line of work did put women's name in a false grace? She continued, "You had the flabbergasting mordacity to come on over here to our spot, scarin' away customers with your malice manner on our situation. For what? So you can talk statt 'bout that? 'Bout us? 'Bout what we do? So you can tell your friends over tea that you met one first hand? Well you should, you should be honored to be in the presence of such world wonders. Heck you think we are in some fantasy land? You're the one lost if you even thought for a second, that we haven't served your Mr. Henry Wells more than at least 9 times, and that'd just be in fort's night."
Yes, that was the witchy rebuttal she chose to use. Surely that was dumbing it down enough for this obnoxious, red-headed nuisances' type, Imogene must have thought. Yeah, you know what Imogene had to be right, she was born to be a flapper, and she was just liberating herself. How dare I have doubted her if even for a split second. She followed that up with, "A gal can't even go about one's business without some Victorian American conception phobist all up in her slip-in panties ! You think you're so ritz, but you are conversing what, statts? Absolute nothingness, that's what you talk about, and that's all you are!"
"Oh I'm the one worth nothing?" Viola retorted as she redirected her stare and decided to now address Marcella, "Why you're the one resorting to what, wearing men fashion? Chopping off your hair, disgusting to the rest of us normal women in the world. Surely if your mother was of any class she explained that men pride themselves on cars, while its the hair that does it for women. Didn't your mother teach you anything? Obviously not! Why would she waste her time on such a person who is truly worth rubbish!"
Imogene, the one I looked to out of all the ladies, sensed that Viola Wells' remark to Marcella hit a wound, because for the first time Marcella was quiet and had an unfamiliar glaze in her eyes. By this time Imogene was quite half-cut from guzzling half the hooch in Marcella's flask. Oddly enough, I felt some drizzle on my face. She was completely inebriated, incoherent, and unconscious of the rather intense gravity of this escalating discussion that we were having with the wife of a regular. Then she stood up, from sitting on the curb, giggling away at the anger of Viola Wells, and said; "Well at least your mother was kind enough to teach you to be blind, and let your husband slip away to us." I do think that as sloppy as the words were articulated, she made her point by taking the black 'bottle of joy' out of Marcella's hand and throwing it toward Mrs. Well's long cherry locks.
"Why don't you take pride in that" Imo proclaimed as a smile started pulling its way onto her shadowed face.
Splashed and indignant, Viola screamed "A business! A business, is that the disgusting and revolting utterance you use to describe this,--this, this,-- why this masculinity inducing vile offense to women? You steel our husband's away for what? So they can throw our money into your employer's filthy hands?"
"Well, Wells", Imogene buckled to the floor hysterically amused at the combination of words she just assembled, then continued on by stating as if to educate the prudish hagfish ahead, "the part you seem to be mistaken, Viola, is well, -- we don't charge money for a dance."
Another flapper walked into the alley from the stage door, a little disoriented and wearing some lucky purple attire, became immediately alert, when she witnessed our presence in the alleyway indicating our absence in the show taking place inside. "No unauthorized personnel are allowed back here. Get off your high horse Wells. The Dapper told you what would happen if you came back!"
"I have no idea what you are talking about!" remarked Mrs. Wells.
"You wanna play coy? Well I'll tell you this much, Woodrow Wilson saw nothing compared to what you are 'bout to see from me sweetheart. And if you thought the Scopes trial was bad, then prepare yourself, because us Flappers are changing the way women look, for the better! Why else, would your husband acquire us as friends for the night! Well I'll tell you why; It's because he ain't content with you. He can't even stand to undress you and he's given you that handcuff to proudly display on your finger to show off to all your ritz friends, given you boxes of flowers, and do you know all that really is? It is an alibi, that's what that is, to distract you from the real image. Well I'll tell you honey, I got me more pearls and such then you'll ever get from that man because you got a damn stick up where the sun don't shine!"
Almost instantaneously, Viola grabbed the boa that I had previously albeit accidentally on the ground. She wrapped one end of the boa around her hand, and started suffocating Imogene from behind, tugging on both my boa which was now tied around both Imogene's neck and her necklace. The spectating flapper in purple had run inside to get the tender at the bar, the strongest man in our union, as I watched as Imo gasped and gasped and the grasp around her neck only tightened evermore. My stomach dropped and I was stuck. I couldn't move my stilts , for the life of me. I was frozen on the spot. My mind was being tied down, I felt as if it were me who was captured, unable to think, or move, I was hit. And then the walls started to close. Closing. Closing. Closing so painfully slow. The lights of my sight started shutting down. My chest. My chest. Strangely enough, I felt my lung close, suffocation! Screams of peril was all that filled my ears, as the Marcella fluttered me. But why? Why? it was Imogene that needed to be saved! Losing air, that's what was happening, I couldn't breathe. Oh goodness! Colors seemed to evade me as I dizzied off. Vague impression of the scene was all that was visible now. Imo, oh Imogene. Oh goodness. The air escaping me. I hit the dirty alleyway pavement in a weak collapse. It was like I was back at the place where I realized liberation was what I wanted. And what I wanted, was to be a fabulous flapper girl; a flapper girl like Imogene. Imogene was the one that allowed me to liberate myself. So I could escape the life, escape myself. But now I was the one who was so cold, oh so cold. That's what I saw, that's what I felt. There I lay, numb at the senses. I knew feathers were flying, for I felt as the boa had tightened around me, and it was all over, life was over; mine, and Imogene's. And so I though to myself in desperation, Imogene, oh Imogene. Where are you going, I need you here. She was the only way I could live.