Short Stories

Uncle Hippo: The Scandalous Story Behind The Name

                     

Madam CJ Walker

 This story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons , living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Walter Perkins Jr was born in Mississippi in 1909. When he turned seven, his parents, Walter Perkins Sr and Isabelle Davis, moved him and the family to Indianapolis, Indiana where he remained until the day he died. Handsome, suave and debonair, and an astute businessman, Walter Perkins made an excellent living as a bail bondsman. By the age of twenty-five, he had his own business, and he was a lady killer. He stood six feet and three inches tall, and he had piercing light brown eyes. His dark brown soft, curly hair was the envy of many. 

A snazzy dresser, Walter often wore a  gray doubled breasted suit coat with black pleated pinstriped pants, a white shirt, and a large red tie. To top off his look, he wore a wide-brimmed hat with silk red-gold trimming. He had a perfect winning smile, a weapon he used to his advantage, and the women swoon when he spoke. Like flies, they flock to him, competing for his attention. He enjoyed it, never short of female company. 

Notoriously single, marriage was far from his mind. When he was out on the town, he had a different woman with him on his arm. His popularity and good looks drew the envy of men in the city. Soon, Walter found himself developing enemies, and when he needed protection, he relied on his unsavory friends in low and high places.

One August evening, Walter drove his burgundy Buick to Indiana Avenue and parked across from the Walker Theatre. The rectangular-shaped building was four-stories high, the largest business establishment on the street at the time. Inside, Count Basie and his orchestra were playing a jazzy tempo, and Walter was late. Madam CJ Walker owned the Walker Theater. A well-known hairstylist in the community, she was a daughter of a former slave. She was also America’s first black female millionaire, a novelty at the time. The theater became a popular jazz hub for African-Americans in the 1940s. Madam CJ Walker used it as her headquarters while she manufactured hair products for black women and men. 

Walter strolled inside, and his stride was long and deliberate. Bold Egyptian colors, red and gold decorated the interior. Gold trimming aligned the baseboard of the ceiling and along the walls. Red carpeting ran throughout the entire theatre, and the seating section had plush, cushiony red seats. 

In the front of the seating section, Count Basie’s orchestra played on an elegant wood stage. Count Basie sat at the grand piano belting out one of his famous songs, One O’Clock Jump. He was all smiling with his glistening black wavy hair. On the far left, a glass door trimmed in gold separated the theater from the lobby. Walter opened the door and strolled inside. Men in fancy suits hovered over the bar drinking highballs and making light conversation with attractive, well-endowed women.

Dressed to kill, Walter took off his big silk hat. He sat at the end of the bar and reached in his coat pocket. Walter took out a fat Cuban cigar along with a pack of matches. After he lit his cigar, a rich cinnamon scent floated in the air. It wasn’t long before a waitress sauntered over his way. 

She was short, with Shirley Temple black curls and a deep chocolate complexion. The waitress’ strapless dress clung to her like a wet paper bag. She leaned over the counter, revealing her big breasts, and her burgundy red lips parted into a seductive smile. The waitress batted her long black eyelashes, and she crowed in a syrupy voice. “So, handsome, what are you drinking tonight?” 

Walter’s face brightens into a grin as he tapped his cigar on the edge of his ashtray. “Bring me a shot of Whistle pig whiskey,” he replied in a gruff voice.  

“You got it.” The waitress sauntered off, disappearing behind a stain-glass partition. Walter sat back and puffed his cigar, checking out the noisy scene. When his light brown eyes drifted to the other end of the bar, a mysterious woman with brown hair styled in a fingered wave copiously caught his attention. She was alone, and her cinnamon-brown skin glistened under the low light. The woman’s expressive dark brown eyes complimented her round and delicate face. She sat sideways, slightly stooped over with her legs crossed at the knee. She looked sensual and ravishing in her crème-colored lacey dress. The material was so tight that her nipples protruded through the fabric. 

Quiet and introspective, the woman held a king-sized Rothman cigarette between her slender fingers. Every few seconds, she lifted her head, pursing her lips blowing out wispy white smoke. On the counter sat a glass of whiskey, and she would occasionally take a sip. Then she would lick her thick ruby lips before taking another sip. Preoccupied with her thoughts, she didn’t notice Walter Perkins checking her out at the opposite end of the bar. 

Captivated by her sensuality, Walter puffed on his Cuban cigar. He stared at the woman through clouds of smoke. He never took his eyes off her. After a while, the woman finished her whiskey. She lit up another cigarette and gently inserted it between her lips. Walter gestured for the waitress, and she immediately came over. She slapped her hand over her  left hip and thrust out her big breasts. “What can I get you?” She asked in a throaty tone.

Walter leaned over the counter and whispered. “See that fine woman sitting at the end of the bar with the white lacey dress?” The waitress turned and looked. Frowning, she responded with venom. “Yeah, what about her?”

“Bring her another drink. Say it’s from Walter.” He grinned at her showing perfect straight white teeth as he dropped a fifty dollar bill on the counter. The waitress’ features softened as she gingerly grabbed the money. She sauntered off, not saying another word.

Minutes later, the waitress set a glass of whiskey in front of the woman. With her mouth churning like a washing machine, she nodded her head in Walter’s direction. The woman looked Walter’s way and shyly smiled. She reached for her glass of whiskey and lifted it slightly in the air. She nodded her head in Walter’s direction, signaling a toast. Then she took a sip dragging it out, licking the rim of her glass. 

Hooked, Walter drank his whiskey and pressed the butt of his cigar in the ashtray. He slipped the spent cigar in his coat pocket and grabbed his silk hat. Walter rose out of his seat and strolled over to the woman breaking out into his winning smile. He hovered, bowing over holding his silk hat against his chest. “Madam, my name is Walter Perkins. How are you this fine evening?”

“I’m fine,” she coyly replied. Her words sounded like musical notes on a piano.

“Yes, you’re certainly are,” he joked. “Your name madam?”

“Celeste Henry.”

“Can I join you?”

“Certainly Mister Perkins.” 

Walter shook his head. “No. Call me Walter. I insist.”

“All right, Walter!” Celeste smiled broadly.

“You’ve a beautiful smile. I bet you get many compliments.” Walter placed his silk hat on the counter and sat on a stool across from her. He leaned to the side with one foot touching the floor.

Celeste giggled. “Sometimes,” she said as she grabbed her glass and sipped on her whiskey.

Walter’s light brown eyes bored into her as he studied Celeste more closely. He didn’t see a wedding ring on her finger, so he felt Celeste was fair game. “I frequent here quite a bit, and I don’t remember seeing you around here. Are you new in town?” He innocently asked.

“No. I work here, keeping the books. I’m usually in the office, out of view,” Celeste explained.

“So, what brought you out this evening?” Walter asked with rounded eyes.

“Count Basie. I love his music.”

Walter gestured for the waitress. “It seems we’ve something in common. I’m a fan of Count Basie too. Care for another drink?”

“Yes, please,” Celeste smiled. The waitress sauntered over and gave Walter a dirty look. She refused to look Celeste’s way. “What now?” she quipped in a salty tone.

“Two more whiskeys,” Walter smiled, ignoring her frosty attitude. 

“Fine,” the waitress said as she sauntered off to another section behind the bar.

“Damn, what’s wrong with her?” Walter asked.

“She’s just a little jealous,” Celeste chuckled throwing her head back.

 Walter shook his head and reached in his pocket, pulling out his spent cigar and pack of matches. He struck a match and lit the cigar up. Walter puffed on it, inhaling, holding the smoke then he blew it out. Wisps of smoke hovered in his face, as his eyes delved into Celeste’s. The waitress returned, breaking their trance. She crudely placed their glasses on the counter. “Thank you,” Walter said.

“Mmm-hm.” The waitress pursed her lips and rolled her eyes. Then she took off to the opposite end of the bar. Walter grabbed his glass and drank his whiskey without stopping. His Adam’s apple moved up and down until the alcohol was gone. Coughing and gagging, then catching his breath, he said in a hoarse voice. “Damn, that Whistle Pig whiskey is good!”

Celeste laughed. “It’s not my favorite, but it will do.” She picked up her glass and gulped the whiskey down like nobody’s business. Finished, she set the glass on the counter and grinned. Walter stared at her with wide eyes. “Impressive.”

“Thank you,” she giggled.

Walter looked Celeste in the eye and grinned. “Let’s get out of here and go somewhere more intimate.”

Celeste leaned over and gently squeezed Walter’s thigh. “I have a room at Maude’s Place. Why don’t you come with me for a late nightcap,” she winked.

“Sounds delicious,” Walter growled as he smashed the butt of his cigar in the ashtray. Horny and excited, he was ready for a good time.

“I need to get my purse,” Celeste said as she scooted from the stool. “I’ll be right back.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Walter watched her strut across the lobby. Her ample behind swished back and forth like a small wave rippling in the ocean. Increasingly getting hornier, Walter couldn’t wait to ravish Celeste’s voluptuous body.

Celeste returned with her evening purse clutched underneath her right arm. The lobby crowd had moved to the theater to listen to Count Basie’s second set. Celeste’s red ruby lips puckered into a naughty smile. Walter paused, looking at her expectantly. “Let’s go this way,” she suggested as she grabbed his hand.

Together they left the lobby, going out a side door. As the door slammed, the alleyway where Walter and Celeste stood reeked of strong piss and rotten food. A lamppost across the way flickered in and out, casting a shadow over the charcoal-colored road. Celeste squinted as she tried to view Indiana Avenue from where she stood, and Count Basie’s orchestra faintly echoed from the building. “Maude’s Place is only a five minute walk away,” Celeste whispered.

Walter stretched his hand out, bowing slightly. “After you, my beautiful lady. Lead the way.”

Celeste headed down the alleyway with Walter close behind. They passed a gray rat, the size of a small kitten, lying in the gutter, stiff as a board with a pasty toothy grin on his hairy face. Celeste’s mouth sagged open, and she picked up her pace.

 “What’s your hurry baby doll?” 

“I don’t like rats. They’re nasty.”

“I’ll say,” Walter agreed.  They continued down the alley until they reached Indiana Avenue. Then they stopped, and Celeste pointed down the road. “Maude’s Place is around that corner,” she said. 

Walter followed her, and Maude’s Place looked like a rusty relic of years gone by. Bricks and cement had eroded, washing the once vibrant color from the building. When they entered the lobby, a large crystal chandelier hung from the cracked ceiling, and tables dusty with lint held the remnants of parties past. The floors creaked with every step, and Walter made a point to walk lightly. Fearing the wood may give away and he would fall through. Walter frowned and shook his head. “How long you been living here?” he asked. 

“A few days,” she answered. Celeste and Walter stepped up the stairs to the third floor. They walked down the hall, and Celeste stopped at the door with the number fifteen. “Here we are,” she crooned as she unlocked the door. Celeste stepped inside, and Walter followed her and closed the door. The room wasn’t much. Just a full-sized bed, and next to it was a nightstand with a glowing lamp. In the far corner, a  table and two chairs sat in a Kitchenette. Celeste stood by the bed and watched Walter take off his hat.

He strolled to the kitchenette and tossed his hat on the table. He pulled off his doubled breasted coat and flung it over the chair. Then he loosens his tie. When he whirled around to see where Celeste was, she had unzipped her dress, and it had fell to the floor. She stood there naked, puckering her lips, and posing. Turned on, Walter unbuckled his belt, unzipped his pants, and he pulled them off. He pounced on her, and they both fell on the bed, and Walter ravished her body with kisses.  Walter spread her legs and entered her. Before he could get in two good thrusts, the door rattled off the hinges like an earthquake. Then a man’s gruff voice yelled from the other side. “Celeste, open this damn door! I know you’re in there!”

Wide-eyed, Celeste shoved Walter off her and scrambled from the bed. “Shit, you gotta go!” She hissed as she snatched the sheet off the bed and covered herself with it.

“Who in the hell is that?” Walter angrily asked as he slid on his pants.

“It’s my husband. He will kill you,” she whispered.

Walter’s eyes got big. “He’s your husband? Why didn’t you tell me you had a husband?” He squeaked in a high-pitched voice.

“You didn’t ask. Now go!” Celeste’s husband kicked the door repeatedly until a small hole appeared.

“June Bug, stop it! I’m coming!” Celeste screamed.

“What’s taking so long? Celeste, open this damn door! I know you got a man in there? I’m going to whipped your…” 

“Hurry up!” Celeste hissed at Walter.

With eyes round like buttons, Walter gasped. “Did he say his name was June Bug?”

“Yes, do you know him?”

“Hell yeah, I know him. He bonded out of jail yesterday! Damn!”

Visibly shaken, Walter grabbed his shirt and coat. “ Celeste, you put me in a bad position, and now I’m trapped!” 

Celeste ran to the window and shoved it open. “Jump out here! If you don’t, he’ll kill you and me if he finds you here.”  Tears glistened in her eyes, and she looked at Walter expectantly.

“Are you kidding me?  We’re on the third floor. I can’t jump out a damn window!”

As soon as those words left Walter’s lips, the wood on the door bulged slightly. June Bug hurled his body repeatedly against the door. Suddenly the opened window was beginning to look useful to Walter Perkins. He grabbed his hat, threw on his shirt and coat, and wiggled his six-foot-three-inch frame through the window. He jumped out, landing hard on his left hip. He swore he heard a bone crack and a sharp pain rippled down his leg like a bolt of lightning, taking his breath away. Walter laid there on the street in complete darkness. All of the lampposts were out. The screaming between Celeste and June Bug was piercing.

Then June Bug poked his head out the window, squinting because it was too dark to see. Walter didn’t move. He remained quiet. “You better not be down there, you greedy sapsucker! If I find you, I’m going to kill you!”

Celeste came to the window and tried to pull him away. “He’s gone baby, let’s talk.” 

Irritated, he smacked her across the face, and she fell backward. “Woman, I’m done talking! You’re nothing but a cheating whore!” 

June Bug lingered in the window for a long while, poking his head out, squinting, trying to see if anyone was out there.”Sapsucker, if and when I find you, I’m going to whip your ass like your pappy used too!” he yelled into the dark night.

The dark night slapped June Bug over the head with a deafening silence, and Walter laid still, afraid to move. He held his breath with pain shooting up and down his left leg. Resigned to a lifetime of silence, so it seemed. Finally, June Bug gave up and slammed the window down.

In excruciating pain and desperate to get to safety, Walter winced, groaning softly as he slowly hurled himself up. Unable to bear weight on his left leg, he stumbled and limped to his car. Walter opened the door and fell in. He managed to sit upright in the driver’s seat. He cranked the engine, and with his right foot he stomped on the accelerator. He took off down the road with tires screeching. 

Walter never sought medical care for his hip injury. Instead, he allowed his hip to healed on its own, and the muscles atrophied over time. So from that day forward and until the day he died, Walter Perkins Jr walked with a limp with the aid of a cane. And because of that limp, his family fondly nicknamed him, Uncle Hippo. As Always Thank you For Reading.

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