Proposals and Engagements for the Uncommon Prostitute - Installment 1
It all started with a proposal from the right man. He had asked her how much. She had told him the price and they retreated to a bedroom. But to her any man was the right man, as long as his pockets weren’t empty.
Babette Nickels was a common prostitute. That was her self-determined rank and title in society. So, if in conversation, one happened to ask, “And what is it you do?” Babette would smile and answer, “I’m a common prostitute.” At which point the conversation tended to grind to a bit of a halt.
However, it was at this point that Mr. Bilge would jump in and interject most vigorously: “Such a joker!”
The conversation would slowly begin to accelerate once again as who ever Babette was talking to would exhale the sudden breath of embarrassment they had just inhaled. It had been a joke! A horrible and tasteless joke! That’s what they would think.
Babette would direct an angry glare at Mr. Bilge, even though she knew what he was going to say next. Mr. Bilge would shoot Babette a mischievous grin of slightly crooked, but nevertheless very white, teeth – as though what he was going to say next was just occurring to him.
“Why, my dear Babette – you are simply the most uncommon prostitute I’ve ever met and would ever hope to meet.”
Babette would suddenly smile, as though she had never heard this before. It was usually at this point that whoever they were talking to would make a polite or not-so-polite excuse to extricate themselves from what they deemed an uncivilized situation. As they would retreat, Mr. Bilge thought it helpful to yell: “Uncommon in ways you don’t understand! Not like she does weird stuff – nothing with animals! NOTHING!”
This seemed to do more harm than good as the escapee would quicken their pace and lower their opinion of Babette & Mr. Bilge; which was a feat in Babette’s case, considering they already thought so poorly of her, and not so much in Mr. Bilge’s, considering he was already something of a societal misfit. But Mr. Bilge was the son of Reginald Bilge, founder of Bilge’s Chemists, so he was tolerated and even valued as a sort of village idiot.
Babette and Mr. Bilge would look fondly at one another, being left alone. Mr. Bilge regarding Babette with affection because he was in love with her and Babette regarding Mr. Bilge with affection because he was paying her to. Mr. Bilge tended to forget this part of the arrangement and this is how it all started. ‘It’ being Mr. Bilge’s downfall and casting out of society and Babette’s initiation into it and subsequent rise to the top of it. That was how it started for Mr. Bilge.
For Babette it started when Mr. Bilge bought her a miniature horse.
“What have you done?”
Mr. Bilge thought that a pretty stupid question considering he was standing on her front stoop with a miniature horse named Oliver next to him. Oliver stood below Mr. Bilge’s waist and was entirely brown with the exception of a white blob on his forehead.
“He’s for you. His name is Oliver. Isn’t he precious?” Mr. Bilge fed Oliver a baby carrot he happened to find in his pocket.
Babette came outside shutting the door to her house behind her. She had a client waiting and really didn’t need him to see the spectacle outside. He was the sort who would want to involve Oliver in their afternoon and Babette didn’t want him getting any impossible ideas.
It was cold outside Babette suddenly realized, as only the slightest sliver of a robe covered her. Mr. Bilge was wearing a coat, a hat and a scarf – though he tended to overestimate the gravity of a situation. It was really only sweater weather. Oliver was quite comfortable, as horses – even miniature ones – have a sort of permanent sweater stuck to their skin.
“Don’t you just love him, Babsy?” Mr. Bilge kept trying to hold Babette’s hand. With each attempt his hand made at a connection she would tighten her robe or scratch her check or pat her hair and so on and so forth.
“Yes, dear, he’s magnificent. It’s just I can’t take him right now. I’m a little busy,” Babette gestured to the house. “How about you take him back to your place and I’ll come by later.”
Mr. Bilge looked through the window next to the front door. Behind the glass, veiled by a curtain, was the silhouette of a man in the act of undress. Mr. Bilge felt a familiar pang of jealousy and troubled tolerance. Resigned to Babette’s decision he pouted and started down the front steps, Oliver just behind him. Babette watched him for a very small moment and then gladly went back into her house, removing her robe as she did so. Mr. Bilge and Oliver continued on their way.
“Oliver, what can I do? What can I do but nothing?” Mr. Bilge swatted away Oliver who was nipping at his jacket pockets. Mr. Bilge was tempted to ride Oliver home but knew this was one of many impossible desires in his life, just like his dream of marrying Babette. Yes, indeed, possessing that darling prostitute was just like if a faintly overweight man wished to ride a miniature horse: only ending with one party breaking the other party’s legs and maybe their entire body, and perhaps even their heart.
And as Mr. Bilge returned to his house, he felt his heart break a little with each step. He would find out shortly thereafter that this was more appropriate now than ever.
to be continued...