I live in a dry county. Sale of alcohol is prohibited except in private clubs. How does one establish a private club, you may ask? In most cases you put a spiral notebook by the door. Membership is conferred by signing a name in the book on your way in. Not necessarily your own name, you understand.
A condition of probation is that thou shalt not drink. Another is thou shalt not hang out at the clubs. So, myself and the other officers would make the rounds of the bars on the occasional Saturday night to see which of our people were there. And which of them had been dumb enough to sign their real name in the book. Generally, this was bad for business at the clubs.
One particularly sleazy bar is the laughably named Social and Charity Club. Its been around for as long as I can remember. Its a dark, smoky, violent place - one of those building that looks as if a good stiff wind would flatten it. But it perseveres. Even when they lost their liquor license for two years a while back their business didn't seem to suffer much. Given its location on just outside the city limits on the north side of town, it was usually the last stop on our tour of the local nightlife.
My most memorable visit to the Social and Charity happened one Saturday night right before mother's day. It went as usual - we walked the rooms squinting through the smoke, trying to hear over the pounding music, hoping to recognize faces in the near total darkness. Truth be known, we probably would never have caught anyone if they didn't get so nervous. Luckily for us, most people with a drunk and guilty conscience would try to hide behind their girlfriends, or behind a hat or turn their face to the wall. It got to be pretty funny at times.
It was almost midnight when the six of us, including our boss at that time, decided to leave. We headed to the entrance.
Just as we got to the door, which was in a pretty cramped space, a group of about equal size came inside. We stood across from each other for a long moment.
The other group had us way out-classed. They were dressed to kill - hats, boas, sequins and bright silk suits. The man in the center, who had a woman hanging on each arm, was the owner of the club.
The moment drew out uncomfortably as we silently debated who would step aside to let the others pass. Then, the owner doffed his fedora and looked my boss in the eye.
"Why Ms. Barton," he drawled. "Its always such a pleh-sure to see you and your friends."
He smiled broadly, his teeth glowing in the blacklights, and eyed us all.
"I would just like to wish you all a happy Mother's Day." He bowed deeply and gave us a wicked grin. "Cuz you all's a bunch of muthas!"
They let us pass.