When Lil and Cora arrived back at #41, their packages had already arrived. It was late afternoon, just about time to entertain gentlemen. All of the ladies were going ga-ga over the packages that had been dumped in the hall when Lil came in the front door followed closely by Cora who was wearing a new, very chic, gown they had never seen. One of the only two dresses Cora had been wearing had been Carmen’s and the other Nellie’s. Her hat was certainly new, even if the dress wasn’t. Lil began picking up parcels as she went down the hallway and Cora grabbed the remainder and followed Lil into her room. Neither of them said a word.
It turned out Cora had several new gowns. Gowns that showed off her figure. And she wanted to show off her new figure. She looked forward to being Cora again, even pregnant Cora. Because the baby she was carrying was Jonny’s.
That night she came down to the parlor wearing a stylish, slinky, tight-fitting gown. She sauntered into the parlor, flounced over to the sofa in the corner and sat down, making sure that everyone in the room saw her. Lizzie, Millie and Black Bonita were the only three ladies there and they began drifting towards where Cora was sitting on the sofa in the back corner. They crowded round her and all began talking at once.
“Wow! Do you ever look hot. What happened to Corky?”
“Very nice gown. Lil buy it for you?” This one with a hefty dose of disdain.
And then suddenly, “Oh, my god, honey. Are you preggers?”
As everyone was quickly firing questions at Cora, Esmeralda came in. She had been on her way upstairs with a john but she pawned him off on Lillie and came into the room.
“Of course she is, you idiots. Can’t you see. Even Corky looked like he was pregnant before he took the train to Douglas. Just be glad it’s her and not you!” As she said this, she cut through the group and sat down by Cora. “Now, girls, what should we name this baby?”… And from that point on ‘that baby’ belonged to everyone at #41.
Seven months passed. Cora was large with child. Lil had put a cot in her room for Cora to sleep on so she no longer had to climb the stairs up to #12. Cora still went nightly to the parlor, sometimes sitting on the sofa in the corner and sometimes reclining on one of the settees, watching the action and often flirting openly with the gentlemen.
Late one night, an old man… that only Cora could have guessed had come from Arkansas… came through the door. He stood just inside the parlor and looked around. His eye soon locked onto the figure of Cora.
When Cora looked up and recognized her pa, she turned white as a sheet and emitted a shrill shriek before hiding her face in her hands!
The man began to walk across the room as the ladies and gentlemen that were there gave way before him. He stepped up in front of the sofa where Cora reclined. He knelt in front of her.
“You little whore!” he whispered as he dropped to his knees! “I always treated you with respect after yore mama died… I never defiled you. All those years you slept in my bed, I never defiled you. And now this? I’ve got no understandin.” He wept.
Lil stood in the doorway holding a sawed-off shotgun, watching the old man slowly, stealthily, move his hand down to his boot. Lil took a couple more steps toward him, continuing to point the shotgun at his head.
Suddenly his hand came flying up out of his boot holding a ten-inch knife. Two clicks, coming a fraction of a second apart, were heard as Lil cocked both barrels. The man turned his head at the sound and discovered he was staring into the double-barrels of a twelve gauge shotgun but the thought barely had time to register before there were two explosions. One from the shotgun blast and the other coming from the back of the old man’s head as his brains were splattered on the wall behind Cora. But Cora saw none of it as she had passed out on the sofa as soon as she saw Lil with the shotgun.
Lil lowered the shotgun and said “Somebody get rid of this pile of shit.
Two of the gentlemen callers drug what was left of the old man out the door and down into the gulch. His body was never identified.
As the men were dragging the body out the door, Cora suddenly screamed, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening to me? I think I just peed myself!”
Lil turned quickly and knew immediately that Cora’s water had broken. She also knew that it was way too early. She looked around. Besides Esmeralda and Carmen, Lizzie, Millie and Black Bonita were still in the room. The gentlemen who were upstairs when the shot was fired had come rushing downstairs, pulling up and buttoning their britches as quickly as they ran. All were usured out the front door.
Lil looked around and noted that Millie was actually dressed. Reasonably, anyway. She barked, “Millie, run get the midwife as fast as you can get her back here.”
“Yes’m.” Millie said and headed for the door.
“Esmy, you go to the kitchen and tell cook to start boiling a large kettle of water and then come back to my room.
“The rest of you are going to help me get her onto my bed. Cora, do you think you can stand up?”
Cora just screamed as she started having another contraction and made no effort to stand. Lil said, “Help me get her to her feet, girls.”
As Cora’s contraction eased, Esmy and Carmen stood one on either side of her and raised her up, having her place one arm around each of their shoulders. She was able to walk with their help and they started toward Lil’s room.
As they passed through the dining room, Lil called out loudly, “Maria, run to the closet and bring every towel in there to my room. Now!!! Hurry!!!”
Maria appeared with a stack of towels in her arms just as Esmy and Carmen got Cora into Lil’s room.
“Spread a few on the bed. Be quick.”
As Maria did as she was told, Lil helped Cora off with her panties while Esmy and Carmen held her up. They helped get her laying across the bed as Lil instructed, each taking a position at Cora’s head so they could hold her arms and help her breathe.
Cora was having very regular contractions now, only a minute or two apart. She screamed at Lil, “It’s comin, Lil. I can feel it!”
Lil stood at Cora’s feet, gently pushing and saying “Bend you knees where I can see.” What she saw was a head beginning to emerge into the world.
And then the bleeding started. ‘Where the hell is that midwife.’ Lil called out before yelling, “Maria, bring that boiling water and also bunches of washcloths.”
The baby’s head was almost entirely visible and Lil could see that it’s face was blue! She knew it was dead. She said, “Yes, your baby’s coming, Cora. We can’t stop it now.” hoping that her face and voice weren’t giving away what she knew to be the truth.
Thankfully, the midwife finally arrived. She immediately assessed the situation, confirming what Lil already knew. She took a small vial out of her purse along with a hypodermic. Morphine.
A few minutes later, Cora’s pain had been reduced to a dull ache and an occasional sharp tug as the midwife went about the task of extracting the tiny lifeless body and cutting the umbilical to free it from it’s mother. It was a little boy.
Suddenly, Cora seemed to come out of her morphine induced lethargy. She sat up in bed and watched as the midwife left the room with a bundle wrapped in a towel. The she began to scream. “Noooooo! My baby cain’t be dead. It just cain’t be. Noooooo!”
Cora began to cry uncontrollably, begging to see her baby Jonny that the midwife had whisked away. Where was her baby Jonny.
Lil hurried out after the midwife who she found on the back porch with a pail of water. When she finished washing the tiny body, she wrapped it in a dishtowel. Then she followed Lil back to Lil’s room and placed the tiny bundle in Cora’s arms.
And then Cora faced the cruel realization this was not her baby Jonny. This was nothing but a cold piece of meat. She pushed it away from her, saying, “Get this thing away from me. I never want to see it again.” and she turned her back to everyone and sobbed silently.
Lil ushered everyone out of the room and sat down in a chair, sitting quietly as Cora cried herself to sleep. It was a long night.