The phrase "the joint was ajumpin'" described Big Bessie's place to a
tee. A jukebox on the back wall was blasting out big band swing. A
few couples were jive dancing in a small open area in front of the
juke. Everybody was talking loud and laughing. Some were clapping
their hands to the beat of Benny Goodman's 'Sing Sing Sing,' with
Gene Krupa waling away on the drums.
Marilyn worked at Big Bessie's and was mighty glad she did. The place
was fun and Bessie was a good boss. Bessie didn't take any guff, but
she was always fair, treating her staff better than most bosses.
Marilyn got pretty good tips and Bessie always made sure the staff
had a full meal on her tab before they left the place.
The jukebox finished up with Goodman and started a slow number,
Bessie Smith singing "Careless Love Blues." A few people hooted; they
wanted the fast music. The couples who were dancing thought it was
good to take a break and slow down a bit. Marilyn turned down the
lights as the music slowed. The customers liked some atmosphere. The
remaining couple pressed together, the woman laying her head on her
partner's shoulder. The man started rubbing his right hand down the
woman's flank, finally gripping her left buttock as he nuzzled her
neck. The woman started to grind her hips against the man. They
seemed lost in their own little world, ignoring everybody around
Marilyn glanced over at the couple and decided to keep an eye on
them. They were getting more friendly than Big Bessie liked her
customers to be. True, Big Bessie's café was a "jivin' and jumpin'
joint", as Big Bessie said in her ads, but she didn't stand for any
drugs or drunks, and certainly no bad behavior.
Marilyn knew that Bessie would be back at ten o'clock and she was
sure that Bessie would not be happy if she walked in on that. She
would be especially p-o'ed that the couple were Tess and Harry, the
day manager and another waitress. Marilyn wondered exactly what they
were thinking. They knew Bessie's rules, and they were obviously
making a big point of ignoring them.
Marilyn waved at them, hoping they'd see her and take the hint. But,
they were oblivious as they continued what was appearing to be a
fully-clothed sex act. Customers were starting to take notice. Some
grinned and nudged their friends to take a look. A few looked away in
disgust at the display.
The front door opened and Marilyn held her breath. The aspect of Big
Bessie loomed in the door. Steam was streaming from her nose (and
maybe her ears). Marilyn cringed and waited for the blow up.
Big Bessie lived up to the 'big' part of her name. The huge woman was
over six feet tall and tipped the scales at close to four hundred
pounds. She'd been known to take down two drunk men with a single
blow. The whole neighborhood knew Bessie and respected the woman. Big
heart, big hands, big foot when needed to kick sense into anyone
breaking her rules. Tess and Harry didn't notice the boss woman's entrance.
Everyone else in the room straightened up quickly, and shut their mouths.
They knew what might be coming and they didn't want to miss a thing.
Bessie stalked over to the jukebox and slammed one huge and meaty
hand down on the top. The sound of a scratching record followed by a
boinging sound brought the music to a halt. Finally, Harry and Tess
realized something was wrong and looked around. When they saw Bessie,
they jumped apart like they'd been zapped by a high voltage wire.
Big Bessie glared down at them, her fists parked on her wide hips,
"And just what do you two think you're doin'?" Bessie rumbled. "You
know I don't truck with that kind of behavior." She blew steam from
her nose and now Marilyn actually thought she could see smoke pouring
from Bessie's ears.
Bessie stomped one huge foot forward, then the other. The floor shook
and coffee cups rattled on the shelves. The crowd gasped, but held
stock still waiting to see what happened next.
Tess and Harry started to quiver. Harry took a sliding step to the
left in the futile hope that he might escape the wrath of Bessie. She
stuck out one big hand and grabbed him by his collar. She slid him
back to where he started without his feet leaving the floor. Sheer
terror showed in his eyes. He said, 'Mm, hmm, ah, mmm," then gave up
when no actual words came out.
Tess hung her head and studied her feet with great intensity. "Sorry,
Bessie," her voice quivered. Her knees buckled and she started to
slump to the floor. Bessie reached out with her other meaty hand, the
one not gripping Harry, and pulled Tess back up.
Bessie slowly raised both arms until Tess and Harry were dangling
from her huge fists, feet barely touching the floor. The crowd
watched rapt and held their breath. Would she throw them down and
stomp them to a puddle on the floor?
"Tsk, tsk, tsk," Big Bessie shook her head. "Don't you two have any
manners at all?" She raised them a few inches higher until they were
both on tiptoes. "Now, you two apologize to ever'body here."
"Yes, ma'am, Bessie, ma'am," Harry sobbed. He managed to turn his
head to the right far enough to see most of the people and said, "I'm
truly sorry. I apologize." Bessie dropped him and he crumpled to the
floor. He quickly got up on his hands and knees and scooted out of
Tess saw her chance and spoke up, "Me, too. I'm really sorry." Bessie
dropped her as well. Tess collapsed in a heap and just lay there.
Bessie surveyed the crowd. They were still holding their collective
breath. Bessie's eyes drilled into the eyes of each person, or at
least each thought they were the object of her wrathful gaze.
Bessie then reached out with her mighty paw and rapped the top of the
jukebox. Glenn Miller started to play 'Pennsylvania 6-5000.' Couples
slowly got up and began to dance. Bessie stalked over to the counter
and winked at Marilyn. "Gotta keep the kids in line, eh?"
Marilyn grinned back. "Sure thing, Bessie. Gotta keep the kids in
Bessie had kept her reputation intact one more time, without a single
soul coming to harm. She'd knock the heads of the drunks, but never
hard enough to crack a skull. Marilyn knew Bessie wanted to keep it
Marilyn poured a cup of coffee and set it in front of the big woman.
Bessie raised the cup in salute and nodded at Marilyn. The queen of
Bessie's palace continued her benevolent reign.
Bio: Marva Dasef is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest of the
USA. Having wasted huge amounts of her life working in the software
industry, she's finally getting a chance to settle in and write
fiction for the fun of it. Hopefully, the hobby might also become
profitable some day. In the intervening years, she made vast sums of
money tech writing. Go ahead and check her out on Amazon. You can
still buy an "almost new" copy of her book for only $1.95.
She has published short fiction in Lily Literary Review, Scribal
Tales, Story Station, Bewildering Stories, Wild Child Publishing, and