Tootsa and the Fat Man’s Prostitute

An Anasazi Story by Jeff Posey.

In the last light of the day, Tootsa saw one of the Fat Man’s prostitutes standing alone outside her lean-to. He wondered if, underneath the blanket she clutched, she wore anything. She saw Tootsa and wiggled her finger for him to come to her. His heart almost pounded out of his chest.

“You’re the one with the orphan army, aren’t you?” She chewed a piece of piñon sap.

How did she know that, Tootsa wondered. Maybe she’s just fishing. “Maybe,” he said.

“Oh, you are.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Oh, but I do. The Fat Man likes to talk while he’s testing the quality of us girls.”

The image of the Fat Man having sex with this girl passed through Tootsa like a wind-driven grass fire. He felt at once disgusted and curious.

“So, what of it.”

“So I know somebody you need to talk to.”

“Sure, and get myself knocked in the head.”

“A guy who comes to me is the grandson of the High Sky Chief. He told me his grandfather hates the High Priest and would do anything to get rid of him.”

Now a different feeling went through Tootsa. Fear. He didn’t know how to talk to High Anybody. They could turn him into a ghost with their eyes. He’d heard the other boys say they could.

“So why does he want to meet me?” He meant the High Sky Chief.

“Well, the boy I know doesn’t know he wants to meet you. I just think you should. Then maybe you can get the leader of that army of orphans to come into town. Maybe you can get him to come see me.” She snapped her sap gum.

“Maybe,” said Tootsa, relieved he didn’t have to talk to anybody important.

“You don’t know nothing, do you?”

“Maybe.”

“’I’m tired of your maybes. You don’t say anything. You don’t stand for anything, do you? You got no testicles.”

Tootsa didn’t know how to respond to a girl like this. He’d never known any to behave this way. She made him mad. It’s not allowed to get angry at an older girl. But he couldn’t hold himself. Besides, he thought, she’s just a prostitute.

“I’ve got more testicles than any of your boyfriends. I’ve got four teeth from the head of the Masaw warrior that made your Fat Man wet his crotch-cloth!”

The girl sucked in her breath, then smiled at him.

“You do have some fire. Nice. I like that. Now what are these teeth you’re so proud of?”

Tootsa didn’t trust her. She might be making fun of him. He couldn’t tell.

“From the head of Ihu.”

“Really? Ihu is dead? How surprising. A hothead like that.”

“He killed my father,” said Tootsa.

“Mine too,” said the girl. “And I had to pretend I liked it when he visited me. I’m glad he’s dead. Did your orphan army kill him?”

“The leader of our orphan army killed him. Cut his heart out in front of everybody, even a bunch of Masaw Warriors.” Tootsa’d gone from anger to feeling like an ally of this girl the moment he’d learned the same man had killed both their fathers.

“That’s one way to kill someone,” she said.

What an odd girl, Tootsa thought. She never said anything he expected her to say.

“So you’ll meet my friend?” For the first time she looked at him and smiled, and he felt his knees rock a little.

“Sure,” he said, thinking he shouldn’t. “Sure.”

# # #

Is this too much dialogue?

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18 Comments

Filed under #FridayFlash, Anasazi, Ancient Americans, Chaco Canyon, Chimney Rock, Historial Fiction

18 responses to “Tootsa and the Fat Man’s Prostitute

  1. I need to find the time to read the rest of these Anasazi stories, I’m loving the glimpse I have had so far, of this world.

    The dialogue is spot on, I would say – gives a clear view of the backstory.
    And I agree with Rosa Say about the “me too” business!

  2. I thought the dialogue was spot on. It feels like you are an unseen observer on an intimate moment when two people test each other’s loyalties and desires.

    The only thing I would change is removing the word ‘Fear,’ from the following:

    ‘Now a different feeling went through Tootsa. Fear. He didn’t know how to talk to High Anybody. They could turn him into a ghost with their eyes. He’d heard the other boys say they could.’

    I don’t think we need to know the feeling is fear, we can work it out from the last part of the description. Lovely phrase that as well, ‘They could turn him into a ghost with their eyes.’ Both superstitious and a great description of the power some wield in the society.

  3. Well written. The conversation felt very real. It really was as if I was observing a small happening in someone else’s life.

  4. I like dialogue heavy pieces to begin with and I think this dialogue works well. It advances the plot and adds another layer to the story via the prostitute. A possible ally, or is she working against him, drawing him in by saying her father was also killed by Ihu. You would have to drown us in narrative to accomplish what you did with this short amount of dialogue. It flowed well too. The speech patterns were off just enough to keep the reader comfortable while retaining an ancient flair. I’m not sure I explained that correctly, I hope you know what I’m getting at. Top shelf, as usual Jeff. Your work continues to inspire me.
    ~chris

  5. Dialogue wins hands down over exposition any day. I think, though, when there’s a lot of dialogue you need to have given your characters a name. Otherwise it can tend to get a bit cute and drag the dialogue down when it really gets humming. Yes, more please 🙂

  6. By the time I got to this line, “What an odd girl, Tootsa thought. She never said anything he expected her to say.” I was thinking the same thing, almost to the point of saying “me too” out loud. I wanted to know more about her, fascinated that she felt she had so much influence on all these different men, though she’s the only one without a name.

    The dialog wasn’t too much for me either. The only bit that seemed out of cadence was that you had to explain, “He meant the High Sky Chief.”

    Since I’ve now read your work for a few weeks I don’t have a complete story expectation, and am quite content to get these slices of their Anasazi life. Another enjoyable read Jeff,
    Rosa

  7. I’d say it’s not too much dialog. I was enjoying the flow of the conversation.

    This isn’t a complete story, though. More like a prologue. (-:

  8. adoink

    I’m getting seriously hooked on your Anasazi stories, Jeff.

    I definitely thought this was a compelling fragment, probably because of the dense dialog. Have you thought of packaging the dialog some more? Kind of James Ellroy, Elmore Leonard style? That may be going too far, but it might be fun to see how the subject matter could stand up to that hard-boiled, minimalist approach. What you have going on right now is fascinating (‘She snapped her gum.’ Brilliant.) Question is, how far could it be taken before it goes over the top?

    Lindsay Davis used this kind of anachronism in his novels – a gumshoe in Ancient Rome. Mickey Spillane meets Robert Graves, kinda thing. Done right, it’s very heartwarming. Done wrong, it’s ridiculous. There’s a nice point of balance there somewhere, though, and I caught several glimpses of it in your latest piece.

    More, please.

    john

  9. Me, again. This one’s just out of curiosity. Chewing piñon sap gum? Did/do people do that? The idea fascinates me as I can’t imagine pine sap tasting very good. Ack! Plus we were always told by the nuns that the bad girls chewed gum, so it seemed really fitting here.

    By the way, you might want to unspam my previous comment. I forgot to use my shorter URL (the long one seems to make a lot of spam blockers choke).
    ~jon

  10. Too much? I’d call it about perfect. It was great movement of the scene through their dialogue. I like that.

  11. I don’t think it’s too much dialog. But I do think it doesn’t quite ring true in at least one place.

    “Oh, but I do. The Fat Man likes to talk while he’s testing the quality of us girls.”

    Testing the quality just seemed to jump out as 20th century corporate speak. TQM (Total Quality Management) and all that. I think a more colloquial phrasing would be sharper there. Something like, “when he lies with us.” Just my 2 cents.

    Enjoyed it, as always.
    ~jon

  12. I’m reading along, all green because of the dialogue, and then you ask: too much? No, I roar back.

    Super stuff these stories… Peace, Linda

  13. soesposito

    No, I love the dialog! It kept me right there with them with just enough description thrown in to fill in the scene. I really like this prostitute character, too. She seems like trouble so I hope to see more of her.

  14. I don’t think there’s too much. It moves the story along very well actually. I will add this which is off topic though. The ending left me puzzled and wondering. If you were on a word limit I can understand and I know that stories from Indian lore often stop abruptly but unless the end was to show Tootsa was swayed by his connection to the girl, which I understand, then something seems to be missing. At least to me.

  15. I am really liking these Anasazi stories. Each one sheds a certain spectrum of light on the culture and history without feeling didactic.

    As for the dialogue, it works well in this instance. I find when it’s specific and revelatory, it can really help move a story along. It made this feel like a scene from a bigger work and left me wanting more. I’m already looking forward to next Friday.

  16. I think dialogue pieces are great. They provide a vehicle for backstory without an info dump and the reader feels the story moving along. Loved the gum-snapping! Wonderful as usual, Jeff.

  17. No, I think the dialogue works well. One typo, #18, there’s a “t” at the end of “you”

    I really like reading your Anasazi stories. They always make me want more…

    • Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

      Typo fixed. Thanks, Marisa. And I appreciate your comment about the dialogue. I tend to like long dialogue exchanges, and I’m playing with various lengths and subtle styles. John O’Hara, the short story writer from, I don’t know, the Twenties I guess, is a master of dialogue. I admire his work.

      Jeff

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