The Chattanooga Chalupa (Pardon me, boy…)
The Chattanooga Chalupa is remembered for his gambling skills and his quiet viciousness with his drawn Schofields. But I know for a fact that he was, more than anything, a lover of women.
Some say he come out of San Antonio. Some say he was the bastard child of a whore in Nuevo Laredo who abandoned him to be raised in a culvert by armadillos.
There were stories of his winning Montezuma’s Gold in Mexico City the same night a Caribbean princess dropped to her knees in front of him and begged him to kill her father and usurp the throne.
I don’t rightly know where he hailed from, originally. But I met him, godammit.
No one in this shit-hole town believes me, ‘cause I been drunk for about sixty-seven years now. But I was there in Dodge City the night The Chattanooga Chalupa won big at Mrs. Bridewell’s Saloon and put a bullet between the eyes of Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan.
I was eleven years old.
You see, in Dodge City at that time, Miss Bridewell run the most fantastic and profitable saloon in all the Kansas Territory. Card players of fame from all over come there to try their hand at beating Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan, who was at once the owner of Mrs. Bridewell’s Saloon, the best and most famous card player at said establishment, and none other than the husband of the same Mrs. Bridewell that run the upstairs whorehouse.
Now, you might be wondering why he was called Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan. Well, that was on account of the way he got to snorting and snuffling in the presence of tobacco smoke. You could say it was an unfortunate ailment for a man who spent his entire life in the confines of a saloon. No sooner would some cowpoke or gunslinger or gambler light up a hand-rolled tobacco stick, than old Jimmy’d start leaking at the nose and eyes. He carried a filthy snot rag with him that always seemed stuffed in his face. To this day, my memory will not give me a clear picture of Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan. I can only remember those red, watery eyes.
And of course, the big hole in his forehead put there by The Chalupa.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
See, in those days, it weren’t nothing for a man to travel from town to town and try to establish himself as the cock of the walk.
For gunslingers, you traveled around and shot folks. And you kept on shooting folks until you were shot dead yourself. Or until no one would come out to face you anymore, which, for a gunslinger, amounts to about the same thing.
For card players, you’d hear of high-stakes games or unbeatable players and you’d set off on the road to wherever all that excitement was happening and try your hand.
Well, sometimes, a man could think himself the best in several areas. The Chattanooga Chalupa was one of those guys.
He was said to be able to bluff and call five poker aces, pleasure a bored Mexican whore, and place a bullet between the eyes of a challenger who’d looked at him cross-eyed at fifty feet – all at the same time, without breaking a sweat or breathing heavy.
Now, I know that’s a lot of set-up for this here story, but I want you to understand just how the world was back then. There weren’t no radios and such. So, gentleman like Wyatt Earp or The Chalupa were legends – like King Arthur or, I don’t know, Marco Polo. Stories about ‘em were carried from town to town on the stages and, later, the trains.
Anyways, the night I met him, I was helping my Mama get into her corset. She was a whore for Mrs., Bridewell and, because of our relation, I was able to work in the whorehouse, doing things like sweeping the saloon and swapping out sheets from the short-time rooms, which I have to tell you was disgusting.
Well, downstairs Cryin’ Jimmy Ryan was fleecing the customers, as usual. My Mama told me never to trust Jimmy and come to her first if ever Jimmy came up with a plan for me.
After I got Mama’s corset tightened the way she liked it, she sent me downstairs to get out of her business. Mama needed some separation, she always said. I think it had something to do with the fact that neither of us knew who my Daddy was, and that was more a source of discomfort for her than me.
I went down and started sweeping the saloon ‘cause each day I had to show Jimmy that I was worth keepin’ around. Mrs. Bridewell, she took pity on me and every now and then fed me a small cupcake and drink. But Jimmy, he wasn’t one to cotton to no son of a whore.
Sweeping around Jimmy’s table I accidentally knocked a shot glass over with the broom handle and Jimmy, he reached out, grabbed my hair and punched me right in the face. I knew my lip was split and Jimmy, he just mumbled something angry and kicked at me to get away.
So there I was drinking a moxie when everything in the saloon went suddenly silent.
Then I heard someone say, real quiet-like, “Chalupa.”
I looked at the door. There, in the middle of the opening, was a man wearing a greasy serape and a black sombrero. A silver buckle held the bandolero across his chest with an enormous CC worked into the metal.
Two Schofields peeked out from under that dirty serape.
He walked slowly to Jimmy’s table and all the men seated there rose and backed off.
The Chalupa sat down and lifted his unshaved chin at Jimmy. Not a word was spoken.
Jimmy gathered the cards. He shuffled, cut and dealt them. I could see his hands was shakin’.
For a kid who’d grown up in a whorehouse saloon, I knew precious little about gambling. All I know is the cards kept getting dealt and Jimmy Ryan kept getting angrier and angrier.
After a while, I seen my Mama come down the stairs. I assumed she wanted to see why everything had gotten so quiet.
Well, the first thing that happened was The Chalupa looked up with his big, sad brown eyes. He gazed upon Mama and a tiny smile grew across his lips. Mama just stared at him.
Next thing I knew, Jimmy called The Chalupa, who had let his concentration on the game lag while he was smiling at Mama. ‘Course Jimmy was on the verge of beating Chalupa for the first time that evening.
But The Chalupa just drops his cards and rises from his seat. Still staring at Mama.
“Evangeline,” he said.
Jimmy Ryan looked around the room and said, “What the fuck is this? Are we gambling here or are you going to play stinkfinger with the help?”
“Where is he?” The Chalupa asked her.
Mama glanced at me. Before I know it, the entire saloon was looking at me. Including The Chalupa.
He walked slowly across the room until he was standing directly in front of Mama. The Chalupa put his arm around her and beckoned me over. I stumbled to them and smelled the desert all over his serape.
The Chattanooga Chalupa looked down at me and asked, “Do you know who I am?”
I stammered, “Th-The Ch-Chatt. The Chattanooga Chalupa.”
He nodded his head slowly. It was hard to see his face under that huge sombrero that he refused to take off. “I am also your- “
“What the fuck is this?” Jimmy bellowed. Miranda? Get this bitch back upstairs! I’m fifty-two grand into The Chalupa and he’s not going anywhere.”
Mrs. Bridewell came out from the office behind the bar. “Eve, get on upstairs. Take the boy with you,” she said.
The Chalupa stepped forward and said, “Ma’am, they’re going nowhere.” And turning to Jimmy, he said, “Our game is over, friend. Take the money. I don’t want it.”
Well, I could see Jimmy getting red in the face. He stood up and said, “Chalupa, I don’t want your charity. I want to win this money and I won’t have you distracted by no whore!”
Just like that, Jimmy pulled a gun and – the memory still breaks my heart – shot my Mama right in the head.
Before Jimmy finished a breath, The Chalupa put a bullet right in his forehead. Jimmy’s eyes crossed and down he went.
“Mama!” I screamed. I ran over to her but it was no use. I could see she was dead. And The Chalupa was down on the floor, holding her, cradling her. He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and I got to wondering, even while I was feeling so broken up myself, why this legend was cryin’ over a dead whore.
Of course, I know you’re probably thinkin’ The Chalupa came out and told me he was my father and had traveled to that wretched saloon to save me and Mama from a life of misery. That all his traveling and adventurin’ was nothin’ more than his quest to find us, his family.
But that wasn’t how it happened.
The Chalupa, he give all the money on the table to Mrs. Bridewell and said, “See Evangeline is buried properly. And this money is for the boy. I don’t want to come back here and find it was stolen from him.”
Mrs. Bridewell looked over at me with her huge doe eyes, all tearing up. Nods her head.
And with that, The Chalupa walked out and I never saw him again.
A man from one of the other tables touched my should and asked, “Pardon me boy, but was that -?”
“It was my Daddy.” And to this day, I’m not sure why I said that.
Mrs. Bridewell, she put the money in the bank for me and I had a little book that allowed me to take some out on occasion when I needed it.
As I got older, the drinking demon got hold of me and a lot of the money went to that.
But, that night in Dodge City, while tragic, also gave me some hope.
Maybe it was true. Maybe he was my Daddy. That thought has kept me going these long years since.
I like to think this world allows for great things to happen to men like me and The Chattanooga Chalupa.
The sons of whores.
Well, here is my entry in Chuck Wendig’s latest flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds. As I noted in an earlier post, the challenge was to choose a ‘Dirty Ass Sex Move’ as the title of a story. “The Chattanooga Chalupa” in my story of course bears no resemblance to the actual sex move (google it if you want to know what it is). If you’re intrigued by some of Chuck’s challenges, head on over to terribleminds and check more of the submitted stories.
Image by cdharrison